Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chinese town hires only 'tall and attractive' security officers

Chinese town hires only

BEIJING: A Chinese town attempting to improve the image of its municipal security force has attracted controversy by saying they will only hire "tall and attractive" women under the age of 23.

The local government of Xindu, a district of the fashionable south-western city of Chengdu, are seeking to "show the soft side" of the force, or chengguan, according to state newspapers.

Its recruitment notice says it is looking for eight women who are taller than 5ft 3 (1.6 metres) "and of good appearance". They must be aged between 18 and 23, and the contracts will last until they are 26.

The human resources director of the bureau said: "Their main job is to present a good image so they have to be good looking.

"And when they get older, they will get married and have children so it will not be convenient for them to do such work. Having them leave at 26 is for their sake."

But even in modern China such blatant sexism has attracted controversy.

"Critics of the scheme have questioned why a presentable appearance is specifically emphasised in the recruitment notice," said Shanghai Daily, the English-language voice of the Communist Party in China's business capital.

Not formally part of the police force, the chengguan are called on to carry out tasks that the regular police regard as beneath them – or contrary to improved standards that are, in some cases, being imposed from above.

They often act as enforcers for municipal evictions and to impose fines and fees on street traders – a role which had led to regular violence and accounts for a large part of their widespread unpopularity.

The authorities insist that the women will be trained and carry out real work, not just be used for decorative purposes.

In fact, there is a long history of physical requirements that would look odd elsewhere. Civil service positions used to have a minimum height requirement – the foreign ministry was rumoured to be greater than for others so that Chinese diplomats were not looked down upon by their overseas counterparts.

News websites have been more sceptical about Xindu's motives, however.

Opponents "suspect it is a ruse to deflect attention from violent clashes between officers and street vendors and cover up their notorious image", said one.

They are not the first branch of China's ubiquitous security forces to try to use women to improve their image.

Seven years ago, the police in the central Chinese industrial city of Zhengzhou attracted nationwide attention when it put its kung fu-trained all-women undercover anti-robbery and sex crime unit on show to the media.


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