Anthony Tao of Beijing Cream has a new blog post up here featuring a video of Chengguan officers harassing street vendors and stealing their wares set to music. Hatred of Chengguan is pervasive and growing in China, in large part due to abuses like these:
Now, I’m not saying all street enforcement officers are terrible at their job. Surely sometimes they’re necessary, like to tell people not to park on the street. (I’ve never seen a chengguan actually do this, by the way, but I’m sure they would if the driver was some poor street vendor who makes 15 dollars a day.) It’s just that it’s so easy to find instances of chengguan behaving badly that one wonders whether something isn’t wrong with the system rather than the individuals. Specifically, a system which dresses up bullies and tells them to wreck havoc on some of the most defenseless (and perhaps among the hardest workers) of our society.
It surely is a systemic problem, arising because chengguan are propped up by the position they enjoy as police officers in what amounts to a quasi-police state. That’s what makes the bullies among them so pathetic, too- the Communist Party has set up a police state to keep itself in power, and it’s entirely uninterested in squabbles between vegetable sellers and the worthless predatory police who bother them. They merely get away with this because the law and the courts have been neutered to protect the police above them, the Special Police and People’s Armed Police and so forth who are actually tasked with keeping the regime in power.
In all my time in China, street vendors have been some of the friendliest people I’ve met. They work very hard for very little money, and frequently live in pretty appalling conditions. They don’t need this, and China doesn’t need chengguan if this is the best they can do.