A woman fights with chengguan police as they dismantle part of her small restaurant and confiscate equipment that she stored on the sidewalk outside of her shop in the Fuzi Miao tourist market in central Nanjing, Jiangsu, China. The chengguan in Nanjing began a crackdown on sidewalk vendors and shop-owners in advance of the May 1, 2008, May Day holiday. Human Rights Watch makes no other representations about the particular persons depicted in this photograph, who were not part of the research for this report.

© 2008 MSB

The Chinese government should publicly condemn violent abuses by the country’s chengguan Urban Management Law Enforcement forces (城管执法), Human Rights Watch said today. The para-police agency is tasked with enforcing noncriminal urban administrative regulations, Human Rights Watch said.

The July 17, 2013 death of a watermelon vendor, Deng Zhengjia, allegedly at the hands of a chengguan officer in the city of Linwu in central Hunan province, should prompt a thorough and impartial government investigation of criminal violence by chengguan personnel.

The chengguan are not protecting the safety of Chinese citizens, they’re actively undermining it,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “The Chinese government can signal that it’s serious about meaningful rule of law by ending chengguan abuses and impunity.”

Witnesses allege that Deng died from head injuries inflicted by a chengguan officer who had accused Deng of illegal street vending. Linwu police responded to public protests about Deng’s death by beating protesters and at least two reporters from a Hunan television station with sticks, media reports said.

In May 2012, Human Rights Watch published a detailed 76-page report, “Beat Him, Take Everything Away,” which documents abuses by chengguan personnel including assaults on suspected administrative law violators, some of which led to serious injury or death, arbitrary detention, and unlawful forceful confiscation of property. Human Rights Watch recommended that the Chinese government take measures including the creation of a special unit inside the Public Security Bureau dedicated to investigating criminal violations by chengguan personnel.