Better late than never.
That is about all we can say concerning the city of Beijing's latest move to regulate the chengguan teams patrolling local streets.
Chengguan officers are an obscure outreach of local law enforcement establishments entrusted to deal with matters like illicit makeshift buildings and unauthorized snack stalls. Over the years they have earned themselves a bad name for lack of respect for due process of law.
Compared with unlicensed street hawkers, lawless chengguan may constitute a bigger threat to urban life.
We welcome the municipal government of Beijing's efforts to rein in the chengguan. At the very least, it is a show of responsiveness to public concern.
The Beijing municipal authorities designated five categories of unacceptable behavior, including rude or barbaric methods of law-enforcement. Violators will be disqualified for law enforcement.
But according to an official with the municipal chengguan authority, disqualification does not mean the violator will be dismissed.
This is obviously ridiculous. How can people unqualified for law enforcement be kept on the official payroll? Even if the chengguan is a legitimate extension of the law, which remains a major question, this is clearly a waste of taxpayer money.
It will be an improvement if the new Beijing attempt at control is effective. But that is not a long-term solution. The damage lawless chengguan officers can do is far beyond the five categories the Beijing authorities have listed.
A more reliable solution rests on a clear definition of the role of chengguan teams, clearly defining the limits of their power.
Even though proposals from across the country call for doing away with the chengguan establishment, many city governments insist it is indispensable at present.
If they must exist, chengguan teams' existence must be clearly defined.
(China Daily 05/17/2007 page10)