Law

A practical handbook for beating street vendors

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The controversial chengguan textbook

Why are chengguan so brutal?

City administration enforcement squads (城管) 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.

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Some surprising instructions

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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There are currently 11 Comments for A practical handbook for beating street vendors.

Comments on A practical handbook for beating street vendors

I support the immortal words of the sage Jackie Chan as he stated the Chinese need to be beaten, suppressed and denied freedoms. Especially street vendors.

This and the "human rights action plan" (great English name, by the way) both in the same week. Who said the CCP doesn't have a sense of humor?

I love the use of 忘我 here. In a different context, it means something more like "altruism". Then again, perhaps all this bloodless beating business is an example of altruism with Chinese characteristics. Fantastic stuff.

"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."

Good description of Mein Kampf, really.

I just love the use of "Internal Documents" for things that officals are embarassed about, I guess the only good sign is that officials can be embarrased about something.

Chengguan should study from the U.S. police... actually, in the U.S. they don't know how to beat suspects without leaving blood on their face...
USA is having the largest incarcerated population in the world. That's called freedom and the Chinese police should study from it! ;)

忘我:"Forget about yourself and follow the opponent's movement. Let your mind, the basic reality, do the counter-movement without any interfering deliberation. Above all, learn the art of detachment." --- Bruce Lee

I live in the Xuanwu district of Nanjing and I love my chengguan. The street outside my apartment used to get so clogged with pushcarts, fruit trucks and assorted street peddlers that the resulting racket (read: honking horns) used to go on well past midnight. Once I almost got into a fistfight with a couple of guys who liked to park their melon trucks in the middle of an intersection and back up traffic in all directions. OK, so the disclaimer is there's a university here and hordes of hungry, snack-scarfing students make for an irresistible target market, but frankly when it comes to my beauty sleep they can just subsist on cafeteria food as far as I'm concerned. 玄武城管加油!

Seems like they are using 忘我 as selflessness.

Strategic suppression means we are more civilized than ever, and that we'll be the most civilized once we learn how to kill a person without eliminating his/her biological existence. The leakage of the book is thus a cornerstone of China's new long march to the harmony mountains, where no houses with front doors shut at night and no streets without lost and found bins.

Sounds like these enforcers are effective. that illegal vendors complain means the chengguan are doing good work. see how many people complain when bad food makes many sick if not for chengguan!

the manual is standard police work in USA.

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