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Last updated at 15:22 BST, Monday, 01 October 2012

Stare tactics

Summary

1 October 2012

Chinese state media is reporting that government officials in the city of Wuhan have been staring at illegal street vendors in a bid to get them to leave. The incident has stirred a debate online.

Reporter:

Martin Patience

Fruit vendor

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Report

Pictures posted in Chinese websites show up to 20 uniformed officials surrounding illegal food stalls. According to China's state-run news agency Xinhua, the government inspectors then stood and stared at the vendors until they left. Apparently, all the staring worked. Xinhua reports that vegetable sellers along one road in the city of Wuhan last week moved out of "shame and embarrassment".

The officials - called Chengguan in Chinese - patrol city streets checking that vendors have the necessary licences. But they're frequently criticised for their thuggish behaviour which has triggered riots in the past.

Their staring tactics have won some praise online. One internet user said it was better they used their "eyes instead of their fists". But others have termed all the staring as "emotional abuse". It's not the first time these tactics have been deployed in Wuhan. Chinese state media say it’s likely the officers are exploring non-violent law enforcement techniques. But it had one unintended consequence. Curious bystanders stood and stared themselves wondering what on earth was going on.

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Vocabulary

uniformed

wearing an official outfit for work or school

illegal

against the law

stared

looked intently and for a long time

vendors

sellers

embarrassment

feeling stupid, ashamed or uncomfortable

thuggish

aggressive

riots

violent public disorder

deployed

used

non-violent

peaceful

curious

inquisitive, keen to know what is going on