Posted by Joel Martinsen on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 11:35 AM
Why are chengguan so brutal?
City administration enforcement squads () have an abysmal reputation. Tasked with checking permits and keeping street vendors from setting up unlicensed stalls, their methods frequently result in violent altercations that sometimes land rule-breakers in the hospital or morgue. In the ongoing debate over how to pull these squads into line, chengguan are often depicted as uneducated, short-tempered brutes who don't know any better.
However, a textbook that has been the focus of considerable online attention over the past few days suggests that chengguan are being taught to use violence in certain situations when carrying out their duties. An article in today's Southern Metropolis Daily discusses the online controversy and speaks to the Nanjing-based chengguan who first posted images from the book online:
Netizen exposes textbook on "beating without drawing blood"by Zhang Dongfeng, intern Xiong Qiao / SMD
"In dealing with the subject, take care to leave no blood on the face, no wounds on the body, and no people in the vicinity." Yesterday, the cover and contents of a book titled The Practice of City Administrator Law Enforcement exploded onto the Internet.
An official with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of City Administration and Law Enforcement (hereafter the City Administration Bureau) confirmed to this newspaper that the bureau had authored the "training textbook." He was surprised at the controversy portions of the book had caused online: "Who put it up on the net? How did internal material come to be discussed outside?"
No consideration for harm to the subject
The book, a "training textbook" for the City Administration Bureau, was published by the National School of Administration Press.
The book is a practical manual to guide chengguan in enforcing the law. The images posted online showed a portion of the fourth chapter. The section titled "Handling limits in the process of city administration law enforcement" explains in detail how chengguan are to prevent violence when they are about to encounter violence: without letting go of the subject, several chengguan shall act together and in a single move take the individual under bodily control. Each action must be effective so as not to give the subject any pause for breath.
What most astonished netizens was section's explanation of "specific actions to counter violent resistance to the law": In dealing with the subject, take care to leave no blood on the face, no wounds on the body, and no people in the vicinity....
The book also instructed chengguan squad members to achieve "unawareness" (忘我): "Do not consider whether you are a match for the subject, whether you will harm the subject, or how long it will take for the resistance to subside. You must achieve a state of unawareness and become a resolute law enforcer staunchly protecting the dignity of city administrative regulations."
Hostage negotiation expert assisted in writing the book
After reading the portions of the book posted online, a netizen exclaimed that it was a "secret martial arts manual": "Beating without drawing blood requires immense internal energy!" "The Practice of City Administrator Law Enforcement: Even greater than suffering insults silently or turning the other cheek — beating without drawing blood."
However, some netizens felt that the material was meant to instruct chengguan in how to use appropriate self-defense protect themselves and brought up examples of how police deal with people who resist arrest. But more netizens felt otherwise: "The police are dealing with criminals. Chengguan are dealing with ordinary people!"
This reporter discovered that The Practice of City Administrator Law Enforcement was a real book whose publication information was identical to that in the online post. The publisher said that it had indeed published the book. In 2006, the book's list price was 29 yuan, and some online bookstores are still selling it at a reduced price of 21 yuan.
The preface, which was not posted online, contains more revelatory information. A SMD reporter read a statement in the preface that said that the Issue Discussion and Development Group at the Beijing City Administration Bureau had worked with professor Gao Feng of the Beijing Police Academy to produce the "first professional guide to practical city administration enforcement."
The names listed on the Issue Group include Bureau director Che Kexin, and Gao Feng is listed as drafting the book. This reporter learned that Gao Feng holds the rank of Police Commissioner, Class II and, because of his creation of the Hostage and Violent Tactics Negotiation theoretic framework," has been hailed in the media as "China's top hostage negotiator" and "the father of Chinese hostage negotiation."
"Who put this up on the net?"
A source within the City Administration Bureau who did not wish to be identified confirmed to the SMD that the book had been used in personnel training: "Enforcement officials at the section level and above undergo a one-week training every year. This book was issued last year or the year before, so lots of people in the squads still haven't seen it."
In his opinion, "This book looks like it was written by an outsider. To be professional, you'd have to work in a chengguan squad for at least ten years." He said that new chengguan recruits could use the handbook as a reference, but they'd still have to rely on practice. As for the controversy the book sparked online, he was astonished: "Who put it up on the net? How did internal material come to be discussed outside?"
Leaker: "The textbook fits the actual situation"
In response to the chengguan textbook, the netizen, who is also a chengguan, wrote up "A vendor's practical guide to responding to chengguan."
The SMD discovered that the portion of the book circulating online had surfaced on the Xici discussion forum "Chengguan Enforcement Home" back in July, 2007. The poster was the board moderator "Bridge Man" — actually Zhao Yang, a low-level chengguan in Nanjing's Xuanwu District.
In an interview with SMD, he explained that he bought The Practice of City Administrator Law Enforcement at a Xinhua Bookstore, and as moderator of the "Chengguan Enforcement Home," he collected some of the book's contents into a series of "official training" posts for other netizens to reference and study. At the same time, he also recommended the book to the members of the enforcement bureau in his precinct. Having over ten years' experience working as a chengguan, he thought that lots of the material described in the book "was actually handled just like that in the real world." The cover and page images circulating online are those that he took. Last year, in response to the book, he wrote up "A vendor's practical guide to responding to chengguan": "I hope that it will be of use to streetside vendors."
As for the "no blood on the face, no wounds on the body" parts of the book, Zhao Yang feels that they are "inappropriate": "When I first read those parts, I was shocked — it's pure instigation!" He suspects that the material may be connected to the fact that the book was drafted by a professor at a police academy who may have drawn on his police background in law enforcement for methods and techniques.
"These things used to be spread by word of mouth, but now they're out in the open. Things like how to protect yourself and how to hit people," Zhao said. He explained that these were things that everyone knew, but now they're in a published, circulating book.
He said that the controversial material was only a small fraction of the book's contents, and that the rest of the book explained many very useful things.
Update (2009.04.23): ESWN translates a more detailed interview with Zhao Yang.
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