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June 21, 2021

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Popular shopping area calls for specialized police expertise

Shanghai’s Xintiandi, a popular shopping, residential and entertainment area, poses some unique challenges for police patrols, particularly because of the diversity of population and visitor attractions.

Li Yong, 43, director of the Xintiandi Police Station, said the challenges are what make the job so interesting.

A former UN peacekeeper, Li leads a team that confronts what is known as a “mini-UN” because of the mix of locals and foreigners. He has been working in Xintiandi for over a decade.

“Effective communication makes things easier for all, and I’m thankful that a lot of people have joined me to make our community safer and better,” Li said.

His Xintiandi “beat” is the size of 70 soccer pitches, one of the smallest jurisdictions of any police station in the city. The area gets up to 80,000 daily visitors on weekdays and 100,000 on weekend days. Among its residents, over 2,000 come from more than 30 countries and regions.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, when people returning to Shanghai from overseas were obliged to quarantine themselves at home, some 700 overseas residents of Xintiandi were subject to self-isolation.

Police had to monitor compliance. Li said the expats were treated no differently from locals.

“Respecting the right of the people, the police are consistent in implementing public safety rules,” Li said.

Police officers joined community workers and property managers in enforcing the rules and also addressing the needs of those in quarantine.

Wang Qing, an official with the Xintiandi Residential Committee, said local residents were satisfied with the performance of the police and community workers.

“There have been zero complaints to the government hotline since the beginning of the pandemic,” she said. “Weathering the public health crisis together brought us closer.”

More than 600 foreign businesses are housed in the area. Shanghai police are proactive in offering safety tips to them, though this approach is not always appreciated.

Li recalled knocking on the door of a large international accounting firm, only to be turned away.

“Foreign companies are not used to proactive services offered by police,” he said. “Safety awareness training is something the businesses usually handle in-house.”

However, Li pointed out, police do want to touch bases with companies, especially in light of telecom and Internet scams that increasingly target commercial interests.

Li tried a softer approach to foreign companies, offering discussions with them on exit-entry issues, travel safety and employee rights protection. Appointments were made. Doors opened. Relationships were established.

Li said he believes foreign businesses in Xintiandi are satisfied with the security in the area. Smart surveillance devices have been installed in residential communities, office buildings and shopping streets.

Xiantiandi hosts some of the most popular shopping in Shanghai, with many stores housed in rehabilitated, preserved shikumen, or stone-gate, residences.

Another major attraction in the area is the Memorial of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China. In the past three and a half years, some 3.5 million people have visited the site where the Party was founded, and no security breaches have been reported, according to the police.

Li said the police and counterparts from other government agencies ensure that any problem is handled within a minute of being reported.

A new exhibition hall at the memorial site opened earlier this month. During its construction, police surveillance was stepped up, according to Huang Chengang, vice director of the security department at the memorial site.

“The main exhibition space is underground,” he said. “We held drills covering the risk of fire, electrical failures and terrorist attacks before the opening.”

Since the exhibition hall is located across Huangpi Road S. from the site of the congress memorial, there’s heavy pedestrian traffic across the street. To maintain traffic safety, Huangpi Road between Hubin and Zizhong roads was turned into pedestrian-only area beginning on June 11.

As a result of all the precautions, one of the most crowded places in Shanghai turns out to be one of the safest. The daily average number of help calls to police is only three.

As a Party member, Li said he’s proud to be a guardian of the cradle of the Party.

“Our country has come a long way since the revolutionary years, and today’s Xintiandi bears witnesses to that,” he said. “The goal of the Party is always to improve people’s lives, and I’m doing my bit to make that happen.”


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