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Law enforcers in dispute

(China Daily)

13:47, July 19, 2013

The public becomes more agitated each time a violent incident occurs involving urban management personnel known as chengguan.

The death of a watermelon farmer in Linwu county, central Hunan province, during a row with urban management officers on Wednesday, has once again brought the actions of chengguan into the spotlight.

According to the local government media release, Deng Zhengjia, who was in his 50s, "died after abruptly falling to the ground in the process of a dispute with local chengguan officers". The release says Deng and his wife were fined and some of their watermelons confiscated when they were found to have set up a watermelon stall in "violation of the rules".

However, his relatives and some eyewitnesses claim he died after being hit on the head with an iron weight from a set of scales by chengguan officers.

His wife was also injured during the incident and needed hospital treatment. And there were media reports that other people were injured when the police attempted to claim Deng's body from his relatives on Thursday.

It is saddening that a citizen died in broad daylight during his dealing with urban management enforcers. It is even more saddening that all the developments surrounding the incident and differing information offered by different parties have blurred the truth.

The public is anticipating an objective and impartial investigation into Deng's death by the local government as soon as possible. Compensation to the victim's relatives should not be the only, nor the main, way of resolving such incidents. If anyone is found responsible for Deng's death, they must be held accountable.

There are frequent reports of urban management officers using violence when tackling low-level, urban, and non-criminal regulation violations by people struggling to make a living. In another recent example, a chengguan officer in the city of Yan'an, Shaanxi province, stomped on the head of a young man who had been beaten to the ground during a clash on May 31.

The "thuggish" behavior of chengguan has led to public anger and undermined social stability. Urban management officers also need to be law-abiding when carrying out their duties.

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