City Urban Management Enforcement Bureau is a local government agency in mainland China that is in charge of maintaining the order of daily business activities of markets and streets in cities. This Bureau was established to deal with the increasing problems when China is in the process of rapid urbanization in these years. However, it’s notorious for abusing power and violent enforcement. Reported by Feng(2008), “on January 7, a man was beaten to death by a group of city administrators for filming their violent enforcement of an expired contract in Wanba Village in central China’s Tianmen City, Hubei Province”(¶ 1). This kind of conflict occasionally happens everywhere in mainland china in these years for more and more rural people come to cities to find more jobs and opportunities.
The City Urban Management Enforcement Bureau which is set up to handle cases with vendors and the environment of cities now becomes a violator of human right. As mentioned in “Killing sparks protests in China”(2008) “This para-police force, equipped with steel helmets and stab-proof vests, is often used by local officials as trouble-shooters”(¶ 13). How can law enforcement professionals become lawbreakers? The investigation combining with the living experience in mainland China shows that the three common causes for this problem are are poor communication, profit driven and lack of regulations. These have led to the bad behavior of those officers.
The first cause of violence enforcement is the poor communication because of low education level. The officers are responsible for cracking done on no-license vendors and tackle with some low-level criminals so that they mainly deal with the low-income group of people who are mainly formed by the rural migrant workers or villagers in a city. Those people usually don’t have a very high education level. According to the 2009 migrant workers monitoring survey report (2009), “over 75% migrant workers only have junior high school education or below”(n.p.).
While the communication skills and education level of the officers are also low. From the report of Ramzy (2009), “officers were often drawn from the ranks of laid-off workers from state-owned enterprises and given little training in law enforcement”(¶ 10). So the only way they can complete their mission is to treat the vendors violently to warn them not to break the rules again. Both sides in this conflict have difficulties to understand each other and when either of them is irritable and impulsive, violent confrontations may happen.
The second cause of abusing of power and violence enforcement is the officers can earn profit from punish those poor guys, which drive them beat defenseless people on the street and take all they have without any mercy or sympathy. Li (2006) observed that “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 misdemeanors” (¶ 8). For the people who are too poor to afford the fines, the officer some time ruin the handcarts and tools of the vendors and divide misdemeanors with their colleagues. It is more or less similar to the triad threatening for protection fees on the street. This profit drives the officer in chasing the vendors and use violence to force them to surrender without any respect to human right.
The senior level of the government is also responsible for such violate events because they indulge their staff and do not come up with any strict regulations to restrict their behaviors. Though those two causes mentioned above truly have effect on the behavior of the Urban Management Officers, the third one is the most obvious and serious cause of abusing of power and violence enforcement. Some indirect evidences show that some of the violate enforcement events even happens with the acquiescence of the senior government.
A common situation is that the leaders of the Bureau only want their officers to clean out all the vendors on the street no matter what they do to achieve it. Just like Ramzy said (2009), “It’s precisely because the Chinese bureaucracy’s idea of an ideal city doesn’t include peddlers and street vendors that the [urban management officers] developed into such a powerful institution” (¶ 8). And when the violence enforcement event is exposed, they are always shifting the responsibility to their staff or some one else and do not consider their responsibility of regulation. The events of abusing of power and violence enforcement will continue happening unless the local government set up strict regulations and punish the officers who break the law.
The abusing of power and violent enforcement of urban management officers is a tough problem with several causes and complex background, but it is not impossible to solve as long as the government takes effective actions such as providing necessary training to the officers and restricting their behavior. Though the vendors or villagers break the law first, it can not be the reason to abuse someone and violate his human right. Every one participating in dealing with such troubles should remember that consideration and respect are the best solutions but not violation and conflict.
Killing sparks protests in China. (2008 January 9). BBC News. Retrieved 29 September 29, 2011 from World Wide Web: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7178382.stm
Feng Yiran. (January 12, 2008). Man Beaten to Death for Filming City Administrators’ Brutality. The Epoch Times. Retrieved 29 September 29, 2011 from World Wide Web:
Austin Ramzy. (May 21, 2009). Above the Law? China’s Bully Law-Enforcement Officers. Time magazine. Retrieved 29 September 29, 2011 from World Wide Web:
Li Xing. (17 August 2006). Services must be improved for better law enforcement. China Daily. Retrieved 29 September 29, 2011 from World Wide Web:
Guo Shipeng and Benjamin Kang Lim. (April 10, 2007). Chinese sausage seller spared execution. Sign on San Diego. Retrieved 29 September 29, 2011 from World Wide Web: