May 23, 2012


Human Rights Watch conducted research on human rights abuses by chengguan authorities in the municipalities of Beijing, Shenyang, Huangshan, Kunming, Nanjing, and Qingdao from mid-2009 through 2011.Those municipalities were selected in part because state media reports of chengguan-related violence were most common in those cities.

The Chinese government does not allow independent, impartial organizations to freely conduct research or monitor human rights, particularly research related to the operations of the nation’s security forces. As a result, conducting interviews and gathering credible information presents formidable challenges. Our research thus required a high level of sensitivity to the security of both researchers and interviewees. We conducted interviews only in circumstances in which they could be carried out without surveillance and possible harassment of government officials or security forces.

In all, we interviewed 25 men and women of varying socio-economic backgrounds who had been victims of chengguan abuses. The majority were street vendors and many of them reported that they had witnessed chengguan abuse of other street vendors. We also interviewed an individual whose family members were beaten by chengguan officers in the course of the forced eviction and demolition of their home and a Chinese journalist who told Human Rights Watch how he was beaten by a baton-wielding chengguan officer while covering a public protest.

Interviews were conducted in Chinese and no incentives were offered or provided to persons interviewed. All participants provided oral informed consent to participate and were assured anonymity. Because of a very real possibility of reprisals, we have withheld the names of all of the chengguan victims we spoke with and used pseudonyms in describing their cases.

The report also draws on Chinese academic research, including the 2008 The Newest Essential Manual for Chengguan Grassroots Work by China Land Press and a study by the organization Chinese Human Rights Defenders. The report also uses accounts published in the Chinese state media, including the China Youth Daily, Beijing News, and the People’s Daily, and in international media, including the Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, and Singapore’s Straits Times. Many of these reports describe chengguan violence and impunity and suggest that chengguan abuses take place across the country.

Our findings are consistent with research published in 2011 by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a Chinese and international nongovernmental group that focuses on exposing human rights abuses and promoting human rights capacity building and advocacy. [6]

In April 2012 Human Rights Watch sent letters to the Public Security Bureau and the Chinese Communist Party’s Political and Legislative Committee detailing the findings and recommendations of this report and asking what actions they were taking or would consider taking to address the concerns raised here. Copies of those letters can be found in an appendix to this report. At the time this report went to press, Human Rights Watch had not received any replies to our letters.

[6] Chinese Human Rights Defenders, 城管综合行政执法体制的制度弊端及城管执法对人权的侵害 (“Urban management comprehensive administrative law enforcement system and human rights violations by urban management personnel”), (accessed January 13, 2011).