A former official was left stranded in his swimming shorts last Friday after his clothes were taken by local police, Chinese news outlet Xinhua reported.

The 65-year-old’s clothes were apparently confiscated when he was taking a dip, leaving him with only his swimming costume.

Cartoon depicting Bi Guochang and the urban police. Photo: infzm.com.

Former head of China National Radio in Heilongjiang, Bi Guochang, said that he had cycled to Sanya Bay in Hainan for a swim. Because of the rain, he parked his bicycle near the fence in a covered area. Bi later discovered that his bicycle and belongings had disappeared. He was told that the “chengguan” – or urban police – had taken them.

Bi then called the local mayor, hoping that the police would return his clothes. However, the authorities insisted that his belongings could only be retrieved the next day. Following repeated requests, Bi was reunited with his clothing after four hours.

Bi Guochang. Photo: Sina News.

Sina News quoted Bi as saying: “A 186cm-tall old man like me, naked in public. If it weren’t for a swim ring around my neck, people must have thought that I came from a psychiatric hospital.”

“From Sanya Bay to the government office to my home is at least four to five kilometres. It was unpleasant to be seen by the public. The mental suffering I had is indescribable,” he said.

One commenter on the Chinese social media network Weibo said, “I thought he (Bi Guochang) ran naked on the streets intentionally, just to make it significant.”

Another commented, “For the officials, the chengguan are just urban police, but for normal citizens, they are the kings.”

Sina News created an online poll asking netizens “What would happen if an ordinary citizen had their clothes taken by the chengguan?” 80.2% of the users voted for the option: ‘Chengguan are untouchable, leave it alone” while 6.4% said the case “Would be impartially handled.”

The Sanya government issued a press release on Monday, saying that the chengguan officer involved had been suspended from his duties and an investigation had been carried out. The government also apologised for the improper handling of the incident.

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Koel Chu

Koel Chu is a second-year journalism and fine arts student at the University of Hong Kong. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Koel is interested in the arts and urban design. She interned at China Radio International in Beijing and, at her university, she also works as Vice-President of Branding and Marketing in AIESEC, the largest youth-run organisation in the world.