Street vendors fleeing officers run over son, 4, with truck

Street vendors fleeing officers run over son, 4, with truck
A street food vendor in Shanghai, China selling grilled oysters, which is a popular supper snack in the country.

A Chinese couple selling fruit on the street accidentally ran over and killed their four-year-old son while trying to avoid city enforcement officers, state media reported yesterday, prompting outrage online.

It is the latest public outcry involving "chengguan", or urban management officers, who have gained particular notoriety for abusing their power while enforcing city laws.

Street vendors in China often operate without licences, and can be fined for doing so.

When the fruit sellers in Zhejiang province's Hangzhou city spotted four chengguan patrolling the neighbourhood on Thursday, they got into their truck to flee and accidentally ran over their son, Channel 6 TV quoted eyewitnesses as saying.

A surveillance video aired by the Zhejiang provincial station showed the father, who was identified only as Mr Liu, getting into the vehicle on the driver's side while his son played on the ground, just in front of the front wheel on the passenger side.

As the chengguan chased other vendors around the street corner, the father drove away, crushing his son under the wheel, the video showed.

"By the time I had passed by after work, the child had already passed away and they were standing around crying," one local man told the station.

A police statement cited by Beijing News confirmed the incident on Thursday and said that an investigation was ongoing.

Online outrage

Some users of China's popular online social networks responded to the report with rage, questioning why vendors should be so fearful of chengguan.

"This is devastating. Why does China need chengguan in the first place?" one netizen wrote on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.

Others pointed the finger at the couple for not taking better care of their child.

"You really can't blame the chengguan. The father cared only about himself and not his son," wrote one.

In one of the highest-profile incidents involving chengguan in recent years, four officers in the central province of Hunan were sentenced in 2013 to between 3 and a half and 11 years' jail for beating a roadside watermelon vendor to death for operating without a licence.

This article was first published on  January 17, 2015.
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