The quasi-official urban law-enforcement squad, or chengguan, is soon going to be supervised by an intermediate-level official from the Beijing Public Security Bureau.
This has been widely perceived as the harbinger of big changes in the administration of the hugely unpopular force, which lacks a properly defined role in the bureaucratic set-up.
Among the public, the chengguan's problematic conduct during the course of its law enforcement duties has earned for it some deserved bad press.
The upcoming appointment of a new head for the chengguan may, however, deepen suspicion that the unpopular squad had always been affiliated to the public security apparatus, although official pronouncements have denied any such link.
As of now, no one is quite sure whether the administrative reshuffle will herald big changes or not. And, if it is indeed the first step in a reform initiative, then the role of the chengguan must be clarified and it must be subject to official oversight.
Appointing mid-ranking police officers to head the chengguan may better its law enforcement capabilities, some observers have pointed out. Yet, the trouble with the chengguan has never been any perceived lack of effectiveness. Rather, its notoriety stems from the blatant manner in which the squad often disregards the rules in pursuit of its duties.
And, the legitimacy issue is at the core of all complaints targeted at the chengguan. There is no official document stipulating its status as a law enforcer. So, unless its special existence in the law enforcement framework is going to be terminated soon, this must be done at the earliest.
Reforming the chengguan is meaningless without first spelling out in explicit terms its functions and the limits to its authority.
(China Daily 07/30/2010 page8)