Watermelon vendor Deng Zhengjia of Linwu county, Hunan Province, clashed with urban management officers, or chengguan, on Wednesday, during which Deng allegedly fell to the ground and died. The incident caused a sensation on the Internet, resulting in a new public outcry over chengguan. After the local discipline inspection authorities investigated the case, the head of Linwu convened a press conference Thursday and made an apology to the victim's family. The chengguan involved have been detained and an autopsy result is expected.
This accident happened during law enforcement by chengguan. It was firstly reported that the Linwu authorities tried to seize control of the dead body and beat journalists. Public rage was quickly ignited, which not only includes anger toward chengguan "bullying" vendors, but also suspicions that the local government may be trying to hide actions by the chengguan.
The urban management officers are major suspects since Deng died in a physical conflict with them. Based on the information released, the way the Linwu government has handled the case is likely out of concern of maintaining stability. There is no sign that the local government wanted to shield the suspects. But their method was not mature.
The Internet era demands that Chinese grass-roots governments reach a globally advanced level of governance, however, few governments can meet this demand.
Violent law enforcement by a minority of chengguan is caused by their personal qualities as well as the complexity of their duties. If the violence of chengguan is proved to be the direct cause of Deng's death, then this will become a criminal case. Noticeably, it has nothing to do with the chengguan system.
Public opinion has constantly called for removing the chengguan system. As the law enforcement group at the grass-roots level, chengguan face the greatest risks of making a mistake and easily becoming a public target.
Chengguan should understand they are deeply mired in the swirl of public opinion, which calls them to speed up self-improvement to change their current image and walk out of the swamp.
Chengguan authorities and local governments should never shield violent law enforcement officers. They should firmly insist on punishing those law-breakers and using them as examples to educate others, improving the resolution and capabilities of all chengguan to carry out law enforcement in a civilized manner.
Let's hope the Linwu case can be solved openly and fairly and all chengguan across the country can learn a lesson from the case.
The public could get to know the situation of law enforcement at the grass-roots level better through media reports, while the media should report the case objectively.