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Chengguan accused of assault in Harbin

By Zhou Huiying and Zhao Lei  (China Daily)

08:44, July 22, 2013

Several officers from the chengguan, or urban management authority, in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, have been suspended after allegedly beating a watermelon seller on the head, the city government said on Sunday.

A struggle erupted on Thursday evening between Wu Wei, who sells watermelons in the city's Daowai district, and several chengguan raiding unlicensed businesses.

Wu was beaten on the head when he approached the officers to get his scales, which had been confiscated, according to residents and store owners who witnessed the incident. Witnesses said Wu was hit on the head with a handheld radio.

Wu had been selling watermelons at the roadside spot for a long time, said one store owner who asked to remain anonymous. He added that chengguan usually told unlicensed vendors to leave the area before sanitary inspections by higher authorities, and there had been no physical conflicts.

After being beaten, Wu asked passers-by to call the police, and the chengguan refused to send him to the hospital, residents said.

"I said to a chengguan that no matter who was right or wrong, they should send the injured man to the hospital first, otherwise he could bleed to death, but the officers just ignored me," a woman who lives near the scene told Heilongjiang TV.

Another resident said the officers even threatened to beat an old man who condemned their behavior.

Heilongjiang TV reporters who went to the chengguan bureau in Daowai district to interview the bureau heads were forcibly removed from the building. Chengguan tried to grab the reporters' video equipment, the channel's news report showed.

Zhang Qingyou, the director of the bureau, said on Sunday that the officers involved in the incident with Wu are "part-time employees". He added that officers are under huge pressure in their work.

"Our job requires long hours and great dedication. ... We will improve officers' training to improve their skills in enforcing the law in a proper manner," he said.

Zhang has been ordered by the district government to submit a report on the incident involving Wu and the tussle between his bureau's officers and reporters.

Unlicensed melon vendors, often seen on roadsides in Harbin during summer, said it would be impractical for them to rent stalls in licensed farmers markets because they only sell melons one or two months a year and no market would rent to them for such a short time.

Mounting anger

Wu's case has fueled public anger toward chengguan and comes after a series of violent incidents involving officers abusing vendors or residents.

Six chengguan in Linwu county, Hunan province, were placed in criminal detention after allegedly attacking a married couple selling watermelons on Wednesday - the male vendor died and his wife is in a coma.

In Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, authorities suspended five officers for "improperly performed their duty". On July 15, the officers clashed with residents who were allegedly disturbing the construction of an electricity project over a compensation dispute, according to a statement from local government.

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