Chengguan, or urban management officials, can confiscate goods sold by illegal street peddlers only as a last resort under laws that come into effect in Guangdong's provincial capital next month.
The Rules of Urban Management and Law Enforcement in Guangzhou state that urban management officers must provide itemized lists of confiscated products to vendors.
In addition, chengguan are required to wear uniforms when they are on duty and show their certificates before taking any action.
"The rules require us to rely mainly on persuasion, while punishment is carried out only if all else fails," said a chengguan officer who refused to be named.
Laws require that the chengguan follow these steps when they encounter an illegal street vendor. First, they should try to persuade them to stop selling illegal goods. Second, they should also attempt to get the vendor to register with the local government.
The confiscation of vendors' products should be the last resort, he told China Daily yesterday.
The new rules also prohibit chengguan from taking bribes, drinking at work, violently enforcing the law and privately confiscating the peddlers' products, he added.
Any officer who violates the rules will be seriously punished, dismissed and could face prosecution.
Many local residents and street peddlers welcomed the introduction of the rules.
Chen Yuwei, a local office worker, said the rules should help make the city's chengguan operation more transparent and prevent corruption.
"I think people-oriented rules would certainly help reduce the number of disputes between chengguan and street vendors," he told China Daily.
Wang Hongxiang, a local street vendor, said the rules should be a guideline to both street vendors and chengguan.
"If we do business according to laws and regulations, we will not have to be afraid of chengguan in the future," said Wang, who sells handbags in Guangzhou's Tianhe district.
The rules were passed by both Guangzhou and Guangdong provincial people's congresses late last month after a growing number of disputes. Even violent disputes have been reported in the southern metropolis in the past months.
Earlier this year, Su Zequn, executive vice-mayor of Guangzhou, urged chengguan to enforce the law politely and to respect the city's large number of street vendors.
Source: China Daily