Chengguan try to spruce image with course in Wuhan

Updated: 2013-11-05 01:02

By Liu Kun in Wuhan and Jin Haixing in Beijing (China Daily)

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Primary schools in a district of Wuhan have introduced a course on the work of China's much-maligned urban patrol officers, or chengguan, eliciting mixed reactions from parents and academics.

Twenty-eight schools introduced the course last month in Wuhan and will hold them four to five times a semester, authorities said.

Children will use a textbook compiled by Jianghan district education commission and the urban patrol bureau.

"The course is aimed at promoting the concept of urban management, educating students to protect the environment and to tolerate and understand the work of chengguan," said urban patrol bureau director Huang Wanneng.

In China, urban patrol officers are responsible for enforcing bylaws and maintaining the urban environment, including sanitation, work safety and pollution control.

But in recent years, chengguan have made headlines for being involved in conflicts that have often been violent and bloody.

The course is seen as a move by chengguan in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, to improve their image. It comes after chengguan in Hongshan district passed out roses to street vendors in October last year.

The key to addressing problems with urban management is raising awareness among residents, said Huang, who previously served as Jianghan district's education commissioner.

He said influencing children will have an impact on families, adding that the course also explains how to sort out garbage and the work of street cleaners.

Wang Hui, a researcher in urban management at Capital University of Economics and Business, said the lessons are a good start to reshaping the image of chengguan.

"It shows urban patrol officers are now paying more attention to their responsibilities to the public instead of only paying attention to their power," he said.

Some parents and students welcomed the classes.

"My mother is from a rural area and she used to litter," said Zeng Hao, a student at Daxing No 1 Experimental Primary School. "After I took the course, I asked her not to litter and she understood the problems that can arise."

But some argue the textbooks should contain information about the complexities and controversies involving chengguan.

Tang Yifei, the district education commissioner, said the course is only designed to promote moral standards, and will not discuss the negative image of chengguan.

"When awareness reaches a certain level, a key problem facing chengguan will be solved," he said.

Wang from Capital University of Economics and Business agreed that the textbooks should avoid negative content, although high school students should be given learning material with a more balanced outlook.

Qin Qianhong, a law professor at Wuhan University, said that if the textbook only talks about the good works done by chengguan and fails to mention the controversies, it will affect how students think about the urban patrol officers.

He said the many problems associated with chengguan reflect problems in China's law enforcement because different regions have different perspectives on urban patrol officers.

The key to addressing the chengguan system is to strictly supervise their practices and improve the legal system, Qin added.

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