To promote civilised behaviour, the People’s Congress of Shenzhen passed a law that punishes inappropriate conduct ranging from spitting and smoking to allowing pets to defecate in public places, imposing fines from 200 to 10,000 yuan. It’s believed that the law, called Regulations for the Promotion of Civilised Behaviour (Shenzhen jingji tequ wenming xingwei cujin tiaoli 深圳经济特区文明行为促进条例) is the first attempt by a city to promote civic behaviour through legislation. Multiple offenders with more than five violations within two years face an additional fine of 1,000 yuan. Those who have violated more than ten times in two years will have their offences written into their profile in a national ‘personal credit system’ (geren xinyong jilu xitong 个人信用记录系统), with consequences such as a diminished likelihood of getting a home loan or obtaining a credit card. The law allows offenders to do community service work as an alternative to the payment of their fines but only up to one half of the total monetary amount.

A group of chengguan urban law enforcers in Shenzhen. Photo: Wilson L.
A group of chengguan urban law enforcers in Shenzhen.
Photo: Wilson L.

The law also encourages good civic behaviour such as blood donation and organ and stem cell donation by dictating that such noble deeds will be recorded in the person’s ‘civilised behavior archives’, entitling them to benefits including cash rewards and priority in receiving blood transfusions. The city’s urban law enforcement bureau, which oversees chengguan, is responsible for enforcing the civility law with assistance from the police. Law enforcement officers are required to issue receipts to people who pay fines for uncivil behaviour. It fails to specify how revenue from the fines will be used, saying only that all revenues will go into the city’s coffers. Questions remain about how effective the new laws will be. A news report in the English language Shenzhen Daily in April 2013 observed that ‘when an unidentified male driver spat out a window of his car last week in central Futian district, nobody showed up to charge him a fine for the act deemed uncivil by a new city law that, so far, hasn’t had any teeth’.