Wreaths lay in front of the gate to a major electronics store at Zhongguancun
in Beijing over the weekend, in memory of Li Zhiqiang, a policeman who died on
duty last Friday.
People often associate the police with duties such as regulating traffic or
solving crimes. But Li Zhiqiang was not a police officer in that common sense of
He was a staff member in the new local government administration entitled
"bureau of comprehensive administrative law enforcement for urban management."
True to its long title, the new bureau's teams of law enforcers take charge
of implementing regulations, administrative orders and laws encompassing 14
areas, as specified on its website, www.bjcg.gov.cn.
They shoulder huge responsibilities: Nabbing industries and workshops that
pollute the air, the rivers and lakes; maintaining safety standards at
construction sites, public waters and public works; watching over hygiene and
garbage treatment in public places or farmers' markets; and keeping order at
parking lots and in streets, among others.
They play a major role in clearing the streets of pirated DVDs, CDs and
The new law enforcement bureau was established four years ago at municipal
and district levels in cities across the country to help upgrade urban
governance as Chinese cities become more crowded and urban society more
As their jobs require, the new agency and its staff members try to take all
the laws and regulations into their own hands and go all out to see the laws and
regulations take effect.
Despite the comprehensiveness of their tasks, some of them carry their duties
out with simplicity and single-mindedness when they appear in public places,
seemingly without due respect for the law by public understanding. As a result,
they have invited more frowns than public trust.
At an entrance to a shopping mall or a shopping street, it is not uncommon to
see unlicensed peddlers suddenly gather up their merchandise and run at one cry,
"Cheng Guan (urban management police) are coming!"
Those peddlers who are a little slow often suffer, as the law enforcers
snatch away their merchandise, tools and handcarts. The peddlers are made to pay
fines, which the law enforcers have the right to levy for a series of
Worse, an elderly peddler in his 60s was seen beaten up by four or five of
the "urban police" at Shijiazhuang Railway Station on August 4. Another member
of the law enforcers in Shenzhen was heard to proudly acknowledge that he was a
Those peddlers who are tired of running sometimes fight back. Last Friday, a
peddler surnamed Cui pursued Li Zhiqiang and stabbed Li in the neck with his
knife, after Li and his colleagues confiscated his tricycle. "My livelihood
depends on that tricycle," Cui said when he was apprehended.
Li was seriously wounded and later died in hospital, becoming the first urban
law enforcer to sacrifice his life on the job.
While the public mourns Li's death, we must acknowledge that enhanced
enforcement and regulations alone will not help ensure social harmony or
mitigate complicated social problems.
In fact, violence between the new urban police and those men in the street
unlicensed peddlers and the like is, sadly, becoming more common. Since January
this year, some 89 urban management police have been wounded in Beijing alone
while on duty.
The bad conduct of a few urban police is one contributing factor. Meanwhile,
city administrators have not created comprehensive new services to furnish the
urban poor and rural migrants with opportunities to sustain their livelihood
Better government services, incorporated into the social security net that is
available to all citizens, are key to better law enforcement and the best
tribute to Li Zhiqiang.
(China Daily 08/17/2006 page4)