Chinese urban management officers — known as chengguan — have an image problem. This is as true in Kunming as it is for many other major metropolitan areas. But in the Spring City, it appears local law enforcement is trying to do something about it, just not very well.
Yesterday evening, after rush hour traffic had died down, a red banner was unfurled from the turtle-back flyover in Xiaoximen, emblazoned with the slogan "Warmly welcome you to the first ever urban management street party!". Roughly one hundred gathered officers performed a choreographed dance to the popular song Little Apple (小苹果), according to dozens of eyewitness accounts posted on social media.
The surprising performance was part of a new campaign entitled 'The Chengguan: Your Buddies', a community outreach program planned to burnish the tarnished image of Kunming urban management personnel. The goal, according to online documents, is to "harmonize past discord between the people of Kunming and urban management officials in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations according to law".
For the rest of 2015, some 250,000 yuan (US$40,000) has been allocated for similar events. However, if the first effort was any indication, that money should perhaps be put to other uses. Following the initial outburst of music, the enthusiasm of the gathered chengguan officers began to fade. No one from the small assembled group of onlookers crossed into the cordoned off 'party area' to join in the festivities.
According to local media reports, frowns replaced smiles on the faces of many of the uniform-clad officers, but some remained undeterred. "Please, come back! We brought fresh durian and fried squid," cried Yu Renjie (愚人节), a ten-year urban management veteran.
Reached for comment after the event was shut down earlier than planned, chengguan public relations manager Wan Xiao (玩笑) told reporters:
I can't believe this didn't work out. We have tons of plans for flash mob happenings all over town, but maybe we'll have to forget about them. I don't think people understand how hard it is to make friends when you have this job. We're so lonely.
The ill-conceived block party was another misstep by urban management personnel, who perhaps did not see the irony in throwing a party on the exact spot where they were once unceremoniously replaced by potted plants. Highlighting the actions that have made the chengguan so unpopular, a man standing off to the side of the sad little gathering was asked by reporters why he had not joined in. "You see that cart they're eating apples from?" he replied, gesturing toward the officers. "That used to be mine."
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