Police in China on Monday arrested a man and detained him for ten days for the “crime” of “picking quarrels and making trouble” by mocking public officials with the name he gave his dogs.
The South China Morning Post explained the detainee, whose last name was given as “Ban,” is a professional dog breeder who decided to advertise his dogs on social media under the name “chengguan.”
Chengguan is the name commonly used for China’s Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau, which is basically a Communist Party goon squad with franchise operations in every city. The chengguan enforce all the little ordinances Chinese authorities write to micromanage the lives of their citizens and have a habit of using excessive violence to do it. Imagine a code enforcement bureau that not only hassles you for selling watermelons without a permit but beats you to death on the spot in front of your wife.
The central government knows how unpopular the chengguan are and has taken some unusual steps to improve their image, such as fitting the enforcers with body cameras to cut down on wanton violence.
Some defend the urban administrative police as necessary to maintain order as large numbers of rural Chinese migrate to cities, unaware of their complex laws and inclined to unpleasant responses when apprised of violations. Of course, in China, the easiest way to deal with complaints about abusive public officials is to abuse those who complain.
Ban was charged with sending “outrageous messages” by comparing the chengguan to dogs and tossed in jail without much in the way of legal process, a move the South China Morning Post said has become divisive on Chinese social media:
“I think it’s too much to name dogs chengguan. Are you so sure that your family members, friends and children won’t take up this job in future? After all, chengguan have made some contributions to our cities,” wrote one person on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like website.
“Cities would be in a mess without chengguan,” commented another internet user.
But a third person wrote, “It’s not appropriate to call dogs chengguan, but is it so serious to put him in custody?”
Another online commenter said: “I take my pet for baths at pet stores and meet many cats and dogs. Some of them are called President or General and one is even named Trump. Shall I remind their owners or report to police directly?”
Zhang Xinnian, a lawyer from Beijing Jingshi Law Firm, told Chengdu Business News that Ban had offended chengguan but questioned his punishment.
“He should be condemned or receive a verbal warning, without necessarily being charged for making trouble,” Zhang said.
Although Ban claimed he did not mean his social media posts as insults and did not realize he was violating any laws, his labeling of dogs as chengguan might have seemed like an especially pointed jab because they are frequently accused of cruelty to animals who break the strict licensing laws and regulations on pets in Chinese cities.