May 24, 2023
SHANGHAI – A recent video that showed a street vendor dressed as a frog and selling frog-shaped balloons being stopped by an urban patrol officer in Shanghai has stirred up a huge debate online. The vendor was asked to remove his frog costume for violating the city’s regulations on running a business on the street without permission.
There have been other similar incidents. In April, traffic police stopped a vendor in the same outfit while riding an electric bicycle in Ningbo, Zhejiang province. The vendor was fined 20 yuan ($2.85) for not wearing a helmet. In March, another frog-disguised vendor was caught by an urban patrol officer in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province and was required to stand facing the wall to reflect on his illegal behavior.
Netizens, who’ve dubbed these vendors “frogs who sell their babies”, praised them for their cute look and innovative approach to business. Some argued whether city patrol officers should show some mercy while others insisted that punishment should be imposed for violation of rules and regulations no matter what.
“It is indeed a form of selling toys,” no matter the look and approach of the vendor, explained Xu Zhihu, director of the Shanghai Urban Patrol and Law Enforcement Bureau, in a program hosted by Shanghai Radio and Television Station on May 12. “In reality, they are individual stalls.”
According to regulations implemented on Dec 1 in Shanghai, individuals and businesses are not allowed to set up stalls or sell goods in public places without authorization. But district and township governments are allowed to designate specific areas and times for stalls.
However, “frogs who sell their babies” are not in line with those regulations and could increase security risks in crowded areas or malls, Xu added.
“For those new business forms that have a relatively small impact on society, we generally advocate using verbal warnings or other educational methods,” he said.
Ma Liang, a researcher at the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Renmin University of China, and a professor at the School of Public Management, suggested that a flexible law enforcement approach be encouraged in the face of new forms of business operations.
“Timely feedback should be provided on issues discovered during the law enforcement process, for adjusting and revising the regulations and continuously improving the methods of stall management,” Ma said.
“Legislation is not the last step in urban management. More attention needs to be paid to implementation.”