Annex I: Letter from Human Rights Watch to China’s Public Security Bureau
April 9, 2012
Minister of Public Security
People’s Republic of China
Dear Minister Meng,
Human Rights Watch is an independent international organization that monitors human rights in more than 90 countries around the world. We are currently preparing a report about human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by Urban Management Law
Enforcement (城管执法) personnel.
Human Rights Watch conducted 25 interviews with victims in six cities in China between mid-2009 and 2011 to document a number of violent abuses by chengguan personnel. Our findings echo reports in China’s state media that alleged chengguan personnel have committed abuses. A Google search for Chinese-language references to chengguan produces literally millions of entries for “chengguan beat people” (城管打人). We note that public resentment toward chengguan abuses have fueled a number of increasingly violent protests by citizens angered by perceived chengguan excesses and perceptions of their impunity.
Below are some of our main findings:
Physical Violence and Torture
Chengguan personnel are accused of using excessive force against and publicly humiliating people. Seventeen of the twenty-five victims of chengguan abuse interviewed by Human Rights Watch claimed to be victims of excessive force. That excessive force, often inflicted in sight of multiple eye-witnesses, included being slapped, shoved, pushed to the ground, forcibly held down on the ground, dragged, punched, kicked, and thrown from vehicles to the street. Those beatings resulted in injuries ranging from bruises, cuts, and bloody noses to broken bones.
Chengguan have no legal basis to detain individuals alleged to have violated administrative regulations; the Law on Administrative Penalty, which is the foundation of chengguan law enforcement powers, explicitly limits powers of detention and arrest to China’s public security organs. But two of the twenty-five people interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported that they were illegally detained by chengguan personnel. Another two interviewees said that chengguan had attempted to detain them, but that the interviewees had successfully resisted those efforts. In each of those cases, those interviewees were victims of physical violence during their detention or while attempting to resist it. The prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao has noted that chengguan violations of legal restrictions on the detention of suspects also constitute violations of article 238 of China’s Criminal Law and make violators liable for severe punishment.
Abuses accompanying confiscation of goods
Chengguan frequently confiscate goods from street vendors. There is legal authority for such confiscations, but it is vague. Regardless of whether confiscation of goods is legal or appropriate in any given case, however, such confiscation should never be conducted with unnecessary violence. As detailed below, our research shows a number of instances in which chengguan confiscation of goods was accompanied by beatings and other abusive behavior.
At least 18 people have been killed in the course of chengguan law enforcement operations between September 2000 and June 2010, according to an unofficial estimate compiled by the human rights lawyer Teng Biao in July 2010. The majority of those deaths have been the result of injuries allegedly inflicted by beatings by chengguan personnel. Media reports suggest that in numerous incidents where citizens have died following alleged chengguan violence, the suspected perpetrators were not investigated or sanctioned with appropriately serious penalties.
We would welcome any information or feedback the Public Security Bureau could provide regarding these issues as well as any steps it has taken or plans to take to address them. We would also appreciate your responses to the questions raised below as well as any additional information you wish to provide us.
Human Rights Watch strives to reflect all perspectives in our research and looks forward to your response. In light of our publishing schedule, we would be grateful to receive your response by Friday, April 27, 2012. Please send your response to Sophie Richardson, China director in the Asia division, by email at email@example.com or by fax at +1-202-612-4333.
Thank you very much for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to hearing from you.
China Director, Human Rights Watch
- How many cities and municipalities in China currently have chengguan enforcement? What is the total number of chengguan personnel in China?
- What is the separation of powers of enforcement between Public Security Bureau and chengguan enforcement? In what ways can and do PSB personnel and chengguan cooperate in administrative regulation enforcement?
- Has the PSB been recording cases of chengguan excessive force against street vendors and others during administrative enforcement operations? If so, could you please supply us statistics on arrest and prosecution of chengguan personnel in such situations between 1997-2011?
- What is the PSB doing in order to prevent chengguan abuses such as those documented by Human Rights Watch’s research and to ensure that alleged perpetrators of such abuses are investigated and, where justified, prosecuted for such abuses?
- What legal or regulatory gaps or loopholes make it difficult or impossible for the PSB to adequately address alleged abuses by chengguan personnel? If such gaps exist, how could they be addressed in order to improve the ability of the PSB to prevent and investigate such abuses?
- In your opinion, is the chengguan actually necessary as an administrative enforcement agency? Could and/or should chengguan duties be fulfilled by PSB personnel?