China’s government has set out the suggested range of duties to be carried out by the nation’s urban enforcement officers, or chengguan, notorious for their sometimes violent and heavy-handed treatment of minor offenders such as illegal street hawkers.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has proposed that the officers who enforce local by-laws should cover six main areas, the Beijing Times reported.
These include enforcing regulations on parking, noise pollution in residential areas and serving food in public areas.
The proposals have now been put out for public consultation, according to the article.
Luo Yameng, the director of the China Urban Management Association, was quoted as saying that the plans were a way of formalising the role of the officers across the country.
“The scope of law enforcement of the chengguan has varied in different parts of China, but the six categories of responsibilities have been carried out by officers,” Luo said.
Urban enforcement officials have been involved in several high-profile cases for allegedly using excessive force while carrying out their duties.
These include the killing of a watermelon vendor in Hunan province three years ago. The vendor had been selling fruit without a licence.
The State Council announced in 2002 that the authority to penalise illegal parking was to be passed to urban enforcement officials, but police in some regions have refused to relinquish their powers to penalise motorists.
The ministry’s proposals have attracted heated discussion online in China.
Many said they could lead to greater abuses of power by chengguan.
Others expressed concerns that people could be penalised twice, by the police and the chengguan.
“Oh dear, they’re becoming even more domineering now,” said one user.
Another wrote: “So now both traffic police and chengguan can impose penalties on illegal parking. It’ll be a mess.”
The public consultation ends on September 18.