BEIJING - Chinese urban enforcers beat to death a roadside fruit seller in a dispute, reports said Thursday, highlighting abuses by the units and provoking outrage online.
Images posted online showed Deng Zhengjia, who sold watermelons at a street stall in central China's Hunan province lying motionless on the ground after being beaten by local regulation enforcers known as chengguan.
They kicked and punched Deng and one used a metal measuring weight to smash his head, the Beijing Times quoted Deng's wife Huang Sujun as saying.
He had recently moved his stall in accordance with instructions from chengguan, Huang said.
Local officials have promised to investigate the death, the report said, without giving details of what triggered the row.
Chengguan, who are tasked with enforcing non-criminal regulations in towns and cities, have long been accused of abusing their powers, with street vendors a common target of violence.
They "have earned a reputation for brutality and impunity... They are now synonymous for many Chinese citizens with physical violence, illegal detention, and theft," a spokeswoman for advocacy group Human Rights Watch said last year.
"In principle, chengguan can be criminally prosecuted for abuses of power under existing Chinese law, but such charges are rarely if ever brought," the group said in a statement.
The killing provoked outrage on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo service.
"This is more cruel than I can take... when will these kind of situations stop occurring?" one user wrote.