Former cop writes about shady police practices

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/19 5:03:40

Wu Youming leads a peaceful life in Beijing's Songzhuang art zone. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Nine years after taking off his police uniform for the last time, 42-year-old Wu Youming feels more than content about his life.

The ex-policeman, who now lives in Beijing's Songzhuang art zone, spends most of his time taking care of his son and daughter, squeezing in some drawing and organizing art exhibitions when he has free time. Labeling himself a naiba (house husband), Wu used to be regarded as a rebel in the police force.

Wu was once a policeman in Huangshi, Central China's Hubei Province. At the beginning of his career, he worked diligently to handle leaders' demands, but gradually, his thinking changed. Unsatisfied with what he was required to do and believing there was something wrong with the system, he began to write articles online back in 2004, revealing the dark side of his work.

From his articles, readers discovered that the reason traffic police frequently fine car owners is to make "profit" for their police station. They also learned how the police set up traps to arrest prostitutes and fine brothel visitors, and how he personally beat up one suspect to make him confess.

"I'm not the policeman who beat suspects the most, nor the least. I felt sorry about the people I have beaten," he told the Global Times.

Wu said writing these articles back then helped him to "vent" his anxiety and prevented him from going crazy.  

Nearly a decade later, his articles are once again being published on some public social media accounts following the mysterious death of Lei Yang, who died following a police raid on a massage parlor in Beijing. Members of the public are rereading his article to find clues about what happened.

"People are still looking into my articles, showing a lack of information about the police. Despite my articles, there are still no other police officers who talk about the behind-the-scenes stories of their work in public," he said.

Charges of incompetence

Wu's father arranged for him to join a chengguan (urban management officer) team in 1991 after he graduated from high school. After deciding that the chengguan were too savage, he resigned two months later.

In 1994, his father sent him to become a patrolman in Huangshi. At the end of the 1990s, fines had become a source of income for police stations in the city, he said. In order to show his initiative, he often patrolled the streets in the early hours to fine rule-breaking drivers, easily meeting the quota of fines demanded by leaders.

In addition to these car owners, he also arrested and fined brothel customers and prostitutes. "If they paid the fine, we didn't detain them," he said.

On one occasion, a brothel visitor denied that he had been soliciting prostitutes, earning himself a kicking from Wu.

While he was doing what was asked of him, Wu gradually began to feel that what he was doing was wrong.

A lover of books, he said the more he read, the more he reflected on his actions.

When the minimum fine quota was raised in 2003, he was unable to meet the target, and was also "unwilling" to do so. "These fines are levied against vulnerable people," he said, adding that those who had the right connections didn't pay the fines.

Failing to meet his targets, he himself was fined. He then wrote to the leaders of his police station asking for a receipt for his penalty. When they didn't provide him with one, he wrote about it online.

"I tried to solve the problem within the system, but this approach failed. So I had to write about it online," he said.

The article titled "Why Patrolmen Like to Fine" immediately became a hit and made Wu an online celebrity. He later got his money back.

After this incident, Wu found himself marginalized at the police station. At the same time, he began to write more articles about his work and his discontent about the system.

"At that time, I wanted to push forward the transparency of the [police] system. I wanted the public to know more about us," he said. In 2011, the Ministry of Public Security released a regulation stipulating that police officers should not be assessed based on the amount of fines they hand out, The Beijing News reported.

While writing many bad things about his work, Wu said that grass-roots police officers have to shoulder a great deal of pressure and a heavy workload, and hoped that the public could understand.

In 2007, he was fired by the Huangshi police for illegally operating the magazine Shuimo.

Shuimo was, in effect, Wu's personal publication, as he did almost everything from soliciting contributions and editing to proofreading, all on his own. It was his "literary dream."

Shuimo had been published for six years before being identified as an illegal publication.

He cried the day he got fired. "If they wanted me to leave, I would leave. I won't miss it," he told the Global Times.

In a Southern Weekly article, Zhang Lixin, an official with the Huangshi police station, said Wu "wasn't a good policeman." He said that Wu didn't follow the rules and failed to show the correct overall picture of police.

But Wu thinks the contrary. "I'm a good policeman. How can you find another good policeman like me?" he said.

A different path

After losing his job, Wu and his wife headed to Beijing and settled down in Songzhuang.

This was not something that he had carefully thought through, as he said he is not the kind of person who likes to plan ahead.

"I just want to live happily and do the things I want to do," he said.

But sometimes his past still brings him trouble. Last year, when he and his family went traveling in Beidaihe, North China's Hebei Province - traditional summer vacation spot for top officials - he was arrested as a petitioner. "I have a [bad] record with the police, so they suspected me," he said.

Later, he convinced the officers that he didn't have any plans to petition and was released. "I won't become a petitioner. And I'm not interested in politics," he said.

Wu added that he is an easy-going person and is not looking for any kind of confrontation.

"All I want to do is to take good care of my children," he said.

Newspaper headline: Behind the blue line

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