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Crime & Corruption

Chinese authorities outsourced law enforcement to triad gangs

Gong Bo

Shenzhen ‘officer’ killed on duty initially portrayed as a hero – yet he was part of a triad extortion gang to which local cadres had outsourced ‘urban management.’

Zhao Xiaoqiang used to sell kebabs on Shenzhen’s streets at night, one of 30 million street hawkers on the mainland who deal daily with the urban management officers tasked with overseeing their trade.

Last September, several officers smashed Zhao’s stall and, when he saw them again later the same night, he pulled out a knife and stabbed one of them, Gong Bo , to death.

Zhao was sent to prison to await his sentence, while Gong was hailed as a hero who died doing his duty.

The Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court handed the hawker a life sentence on July 5. But a few days later, police discovered – during a raid on triads – that Gong and several other urban management officers involved in the incident were actually gang members.

The turn of events shocked the public and raised questions about the city’s policy of outsourcing such services. In 2007, the municipal government began the policy as a way of boosting the number of officers. Thirty-five companies entered into contracts with the government, employing more than 3,200 people responsible for enforcing parking regulations and maintaining order on the streets.

According to local media reports, Gong’s boss and the head of the triad gang was Zhang Qiang, who won a municipal contract in 2010 from the Yuehai subdistrict authorities. It paid Zhang 115,000 yuan a month to employ 46 people at 2,500 yuan each. It turns out Zhang used just 65,000 yuan of that cash to hire 25 people, most of whom belonged to his gang.

Yuehai subdistrict officials say they were unaware Zhang was a triad boss. They would not respond to questions about whether Zhang used the remainder of his monthly fee – 45,000 yuan – as kickback to officials to ensure he kept the contract.

Feng Zengjun, head of the Shenzhen Urban Management Bureau’s legal affairs office, was quoted by local media as saying: “Unfortunately, some people hired by outside companies have disturbed the social order. Our bureau will work out a new policy… and the original outsourcing service will probably be called off.”

Feng said instead of outsourcing the jobs, the government would directly hire assistant officers from qualified security companies, provide professional training and reinforce supervision of their work.

Yang Dan , Zhao’s wife, told the Sunday Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) a different story, however. She says residents in Yuehai – especially the vendors – had known Zhang was a triad boss for decades.

“Zhang and his gang harassed our family and many other vendors for years,” Yang says. “Every street hawker here can attest to that.”

Zhao and his two brothers left their hometown of Yili in Xinjiang , and began to sell sausages and kebabs on the streets of Yuehai in 2002. They were always wary of Zhang’s gang, Yang says.

“Zhang was very jealous of our employees because residents liked our Uygur-style kebabs a lot and we earned a decent amount of money, enough to support our whole family, five children and three couples and grandparents,” she says. “Most vendors were scared to confront Zhang and so paid him protection money. But we didn’t. My husband has two brothers and many Uygur friends who are also from Xinjiang.

“We tolerated Zhang and his cohorts coming to eat our kebabs and never paying. Then in 2010, they suddenly appeared as urban management officers and asked all the vendors for protection money in public. Those vendors that paid 1,000 yuan a month were permitted to operate their stall on the street. But because we didn’t pay, they often came and damaged our stall, always saying they were backed by the government.”

She adds: “We were not scared of gangsters but felt confused and scared when we saw Zhang had a good relationship with the authorities, and even worked for them.”

Yang said her husband and his brothers tried to get away from Zhang’s gang and moved their workers to another area.

In the months before the stabbing, Zhao’s 26-year-old brother died after being knocked off his electric bicycle by a car while he was looking for another location for the stall. “Our brother was dead but Zhang kept driving us away,” Yang said.

Zhao ran into Zhang’s gang at a restaurant on September 9 soon after the men had smashed his stall. Yang said: “My husband was just defending himself… He fought against gangsters, not government officers.”

Zhao has appealed to the Provincial Higher People’s Court against his conviction.

Jin Xinyi , an economic and political analyst who is also a member of the city’s Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said the outsourcing model was effective. “It would be absurd if the authorities stopped purchasing services from social organisations. The government is trying to change its old model of doing everything itself, to save money while improving efficiency,” Jin says.

“The scandal is about why the authorities chose a triad gang as their partner and let them abuse the public and whether there was corruption involved with Zhao’s case.”

He Huifeng
South China Morning Post

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