By Tom Bannister
Photos of a Guangzhou traffic policeman pulling a gun on a drunk driver have initiated debates over the police’s use of firearms and their handling of China’s endemic drink-driving problem.
Xinhua reports that the incident that sparked the debates occurred on Liede Avenue in a suburb of Guangzhou. Traffic police were carrying out routine checks in the early hours of Thursday morning. The driver of a red Porsche began to reverse away from their checkpoint and a policeman pulled out his pistol and pointed at him. The driver then stopped, was found to be heavily drunk, and given a ban.
Photos of the policeman pointing his gun at the driver appeared online, causing a debate into whether the policeman’s use of his firearm was appropriate or excessive.
Not all Chinese police carry firearms in a country where civilian access to guns is heavily restricted. However there have been calls for more police to be given access to them and, in the debate over the Guangzhou incident, police-force Weibo accounts actively asked for the public to express its opinion on the issue.
Several news organisations ran polls surveying public opinion on the incident. Weibo ran one that asked users whether they support such action or are against it. At the time of writing, the vast majority of respondents, 48663 users, supported the officer, whilst a mere 1691 condemned his actions as excessive (!!!).
Many of the commenters were particularly concerned with the issue of drink-driving, saying that the police should use whatever methods it had available to tackle the widespread problem. China has been cracking down heavily upon drink-drivers, especially since 2008 when it began imposing severe penalties.
Weibo user @怪味米粒_咖咖咖 took part in the Weibo poll and voted in support: “these kind of shameless individuals must be punished immediately and severely“. Netizen @手机用户赏梅品墨李小东 supported the police use of firearms “especially when it’s investigating drunk drivers. Actually I wish that traffic police could be given AK47’s then if the driver resists or tries to drive off the policeman can rake him with bullets. Even if this kill’s them that’s ok because if they escape they will only go and kill a pedestrian under their wheels later on.”