Grand Canal, Chengguan empathy, NGO hope

17 Apr

National Geographic carries a nice article about the Grand Canal, the major 1,100-mile-long marine passageway that linked Beijing to Hangzhou for centuries. It may have lost some of its past glory and use, but it’s still in use and a way of life for some people. It’s cool to know that some things still live on from many hundreds of years ago.

Chengguan (public order officials) have a bad reputation with some nasty incidents involving public abuses of power. These guys aren’t police, but they are supposed to enforce public order such as clearing illegal vendors or beggars from streets and so on. Sometimes they overstep their boundaries, even leading to serious injuries inflicted on civilians. Conversely, chengguan have been heavily criticized and even attacked physically. One chengguan unit is trying to give its side of the story. It’s a very tough job, no doubt, and a thankless one. The core issue, as the SCMP article states at the end, goes far beyond job conduct and abuses.

Civil society is limited, with NGOs facing significant limits on advocacy and operation. In some good news, at least more NGOs can actually register as NGOs and without need for official supervision.

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