Heifei’s “Foreign Chengguan” Attracting Onlookers on the Streets
“Helping a homeless old man blocking the sidewalk clear away his belongings”, “moving scooters that have been carelessly parked to where they should be parking”, and “advising car drivers to park in the right spots”. On the afternoon of July 14th, on the second ring road of Hefei City, Anhui Province, three foreigners in chengguan [urban management officers] uniforms on duty attracted the attention of many passersby.
On the second ring road, Prince from the Central African Republic reached out his hand and said to a driver who parked his car by the roadside, “Hello! Let’s shake hands, but I’m afraid you can’t park by the roadside.” The driver was taken back for a moment, but soon shook hands with the smiling young man and drove his car away from the roadside.
Three “foreign chengguan”, Prince from the Central African Republic, Javad from Afghanistan, and Qinbo from South Africa, are all foreign students in China. The three of them were recruited as Luyang District Xinghua Street urban management volunteers and help enforce the laws together with chengguan officers on the streets. Qinbo, whose Mandarin is the best among the three, has been in Hefei for four years and is now studying Finance and Chinese Language in Anhui University. “I’ve been living in Hefei for four years, it’s a nice place. I also know Hefei is striving to win the prize of National Civilized City, and I think we should also do our part, so I think this is very good.” Qinbo’s words astonished the other officers and the surrounding crowd.
Taking the refrigerators, umbrella tents and stools blocking the sidewalk outside back into their retail shops, moving randomly-parking scooters to the legitimate parking areas, giving parking tickets to cars parked on the paths for the blind…Qinbo is quite handy in these situations. After moving the stuff that was blocking the sidewalks, this foreign student of South African nationality also remembers to remind the shop owners, “These things are not to be put outside, they will obstruct the sidewalk, making it inconvenient for pedestrians.” He smiled, shook hands with the shop owner. And the shop owner said that he understood, with a smile on his face.
“I believe mutual understanding is very important. Chengguan enforcing the laws can run into situations where the other party is not in a good mood and using force to enforce the law could cause a lot of trouble, but if everyone mutually respected and was mutually understanding, [if everyone] communicated properly, then problems can be easily resolved,” Qinbo says.
The person in charge of the Xinghuacun Community Chengguan told the reporter that they will continue organizing every month different sorts of activities that help people “experience the job of the chengguan”, and invite people of different backgrounds to be chengguan volunteers.
“Foreign chengguan” participating in the job of urban management is still a novelty domestically, inciting heated debate among netizens. Some people think foreigners participating in urban management shows an open attitude towards expanding exchanges, while some others have raised questions, believing that a department that directly involves the interests of the ordinary common people like the chengguan using foreigners who don’t fully grasp the situation [dynamic between the people and the enforcers] for enforcement seems to be too arbitrary, and not in accordance with the seriousness/solemnity of administrative law enforcement
Using This to Raise Attention for the Work of Chengguan
There has always been major obstacles and lots of conflicts when it comes to chengguan enforcing the laws, the work hard and rarely given much understanding. The Xinhuacun Community Committee recruited foreign students as chengguan volunteers specifically hoping to help even more people better understand the work of the chengguan and understand the hardships of their hardships, to raise attention and concern amongst society for the work of chengguan.
Pang Ce (Hefei city Luyang District Xinghuacun Community Committee): A first-hand experience of being a Chinese chengguan. Having our international friends experience urban management can be a new way for the world to understand China. The quality of a urban management is a key window for a country’s image. These three foreign young men working together with our chengguan officers, experiencing first-hand an important aspect of the grass-rots level of administration in China, is something I believe is worth promoting.
Zhang Chenghui (Beijing Language and Culture University): The effect of “foreign chengguan” may not necessarily be good.
“Foreign chengguan” don’t understand the social situation in China and many social customs and practices, so the effects of having them participate in urban management going onto the streets to enforce the law may not necessarily be good, and when it comes to certain problems where there are a lot of concentrated interests, poorly handling it may actually end up causing even greater problems.
Zhou Ran (Resident of Hefei City): “Experiencing the law enforcement job” is too casual.
Administrative enforcement is a serious thing. Having our foreign friends participate in the work of urban management may lessen people’s resistance [to enforcement] out of curiosity, but having them fully experience may also make city residents believe administrative enforcement is simple and arbitrary, not serious/solemn enough.
Comments from Sina Weibo :
Civilized law enforcement is something anyone would welcome.
That China’s chengguan could attract so much attention from the public actually is itself a very peculiar thing.
Foreigners are needed to to keep order in China? Why not just go ahead and give a concession/settlement to foreigners and save some trouble?
There sure are a lot of SBs who even think this is novel/interesting. Foreigners in China do not have the power/right to engage in law enforcement, so the relevant government departments involved have already broken the law! Our law-illiterate countrymen, always filled with servility!
What will we have foreigners doing next? Running the government and nation?
If their wages are the same then it doesn’t matter, as long as they don’t get special treatment.
I think this kind of chengguan is what they should be like [in attitude/behavior]. If I were a street peddler, I could accept that.
Now that even the chengguan are hiring laowai, finding a job in the future will be even harder.
Looks like the Chinese Dream is already taking shape!
And the point of this is…for show?
Next time have the SWAT team also be changed to black people!
Laowai chengguan being that gentle I can believe, but it won’t change the image of chengguan that the ordinary common people have in their hearts.
What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea?