Tears of a clown

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Among the least popular public officials in China (a category in which the competition is intense) are the urban management officers, known locally as chengguan. Their job is to police municipal areas like markets, ensuring that local regulations are observed. However, many citizens think that the chengguan overstep their jurisdiction and there are often angry confrontations with local residents (see WiC203).

The chengguan were in the media spotlight again last week after an odd incident in Guangzhou in which netizens reported that “an American with red hair” had been forcibly removed from the streets by chengguan, who had sawn off his ankles.

As TVB reports, the victim was actually a statue. It seems that the officials had turned up after a McDonald’s restaurant had put up advertising hoardings on public pavements. Having removed them, the chengguan decided that the seven-foot statue of the hamburger chain’s mascot Ronald was also blocking the footpath. They used a saw to detach Ronald from the spot he’d stood on for many years, leaving just a pair of red clown shoes.

According to TVB, the restaurant’s patrons weren’t impressed. One said: “I think this is overkill. The statue doesn’t hinder anything and it has been here for so long.”

McDonald’s has stated it plans to open 1,500 new restaurants in China over the next five years, according to Fortune magazine. After its experience in Guangzhou, the company might want to rethink how often it deploys its clown outside its outlets.

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