Police officer Wang Haiyi from the Shanghail police force might feel awkward initially but he will have to get used to carrying a loaded revolver from now on.
Wang is among the 1000 police personnel in Shanghai who from now on will carry firearms during their patrolling duties across the financial capital of China, a mega city of more than 25 million people.
Besides Shanghai, the remote and restive cities of Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Lhasa in Tibet – both anyway have armed personnel patrolling the sensitive areas -- are among the cities where policemen might soon carry guns during patrolling.
It is rare of policemen in China to carry firearms; according to the state media, they usually carry batons, tear gas caskets, handcuffs and first aid kit during their rounds of cities and towns.
But the Ministry of Public Security, the agency responsible for internal security with a budget presumably more than the country’s massive defence ministry, was apparently rattled after the recent mass knife attacks in the southwestern city of Kunming. The attack at the Kunming railway station left 34 dead and more than 149 injured.
The police personnel on duty at the railway station had nothing much else to stop the group of knife-wielding attackers other than their bravery and common sense.
“Following the fatal knife attacks in Kunming and Changsha, the ministry said in mid-March that it would carry out armed patrols and take timely measures to handle violent crimes,” the official news agency, Xinhua, said in a report on Sunday.
Subsequently, it was decided to arm the police force and Shanghai, as it turns out, was decided as the city to initiate the experiment.
The report said more than 1,000 policemen in Shanghai began carrying revolvers while on patrol Sunday as part of China’s measure to tighten public security to deal with serious violent crimes.
“The Ministry of Public Security invested in the firearms and specially designed them for its police force. The police officers qualified to carry them after a training series and examinations on laws and psychology, according to the municipal public security bureau. The police will carry out routine patrols in pairs in densely populated areas, such as urban centers and transport hubs,” the report said.
“I do feel some pressure in carrying a gun,” Wang , a Shanghai policeman for 21 years, said, adding: “It's obviously of great help for our daily work. And we will strictly follow the rules and laws when using it.”
The report added that in addition to Shanghai, the ministry named other key cities, such as Changsha, Kunming, Urumqi and Lhasa, where public security will be reinforced to effectively prevent and crack down on criminal activities.
“The ministry also launched a three-month program in early March to train policemen in using firearms in accordance with the law. Training mainly focuses on policemen who patrol streets and handle emergencies in big cities and county-level regions,” the report said.