China / Society

Chengguan webcasts: Real life or just a stunt?

By Xinhua (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-17 08:16

Urban management officers took to the internet to broadcast themselves going about the dark streets of Zhengzhou, Henan province, to "ensure a quiet environment" for students taking the national college entrance exam.

The live webcast was accompanied by text describing what the officers, known as chengguan, were doing and where they were going.

The idea was to show a "transparent law enforcement process to the public", according to the urban management bureau of Zhengzhou's Zhongyuan district.

Chengguan have been widely criticized, particularly for violence against unlicensed street vendors. Officers have been seen as rude, starting more trouble than they stop, and using violence, sometimes quite extreme, against those who disobey.

Some welcomed the webcast, observing that while the chengguan usually supervise the public, now the public gets to supervise them.

"In the past, people who recorded the chengguan would be stopped or even beaten up by them," said a local resident, who balanced his criticism with the proviso that, "it takes courage to face public pressure".

But many dismissed the webcast as a publicity stunt. Some even said the live feed "violated human rights" by showing the faces of people, such as vendors, without prior permission.

"The officers themselves decided what to show and when, so the real situation is no more transparent than before," said another Zhengzhou citizen.

Ye Daxin, deputy head of the Zhengzhou urban management bureau, dismissed accusations of a publicity stunt, saying, "It was a challenge for us to broadcast our actions live."

"There was no editing or anything like it during the webcast, which means the entire process of law enforcement was shown, including those vendors who illegally occupied the streets, or those who behaved in an uncivilized way," he said.

Ye added that there would be more webcasts, particularly on "important law-enforcement days".

Wang Jingbo, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, said that despite the supervisory aspect of the webcast, it would not eradicate the roots of public concern.

"The public needs to give chengguan officers more leeway and support, while the officers need to show more concern for the street vendors, treating them with humanity rather than violently driving them away," he said.

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