China’s Brutal Chengguan Police Are Told to Get Polite

"Get your hands up, and have a nice day!"

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Zhou Chao / Imaginechina / AP

Local Chinese urban-management officers, also known as chengguan, take an oath during the launch ceremony of their militia unit in Wuhan, China, on Aug. 2, 2012

China’s despised chengguan, or urban-management police, are hated for their heavy-handed and often violent approach — but in the southern city of Guangzhou they’re trying to improve their image with a new courtesy campaign.

The chengguan’s reputation is at an all-time low after a string of nasty encounters between them and roadside vendors across the country. In one of the most notorious cases, a peddler selling watermelons on the street in central Hunan province was beaten to death in August by local chengguan.

The put-upon peddlers have captured public sympathy, with the chengguan being portrayed as heartless and brutal.

In response, the Guangzhou municipal government yesterday issued new regulations to the local chengguan, including a series of edicts governing public interactions. Chengguan must now, for example, begin any interaction by saying “Hello” and close it by saying “Thank you.”

It may seem like a simple order, but the chengguan themselves report that they are finding it difficult to implement. According to reports in the Guangzhou Daily, local peddlers are so intimidated that as soon as they see a chengguan approaching, they run off before the police can even utter their standard opening remark.

According to the report, most conversations begin not with “Hello” but “Stop running!”