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A city traffic officer who stopped jaywalkers and errant bicycle riders, and made them fill a notebook page with the phrase "Red for stop, green for go", has been ordered to stop it.
Ji Xuefeng, an auxiliary traffic officer in Linfen, Shanxi province, made rule-breakers fill an entire page in a notebook before he would let them go - a method he insists has helped change people's behavior.
"Most people I've punished this way haven't done it again," Ji told Xinhua News Agency.
An officer for 16 years, Ji first employed his novel method in 2002 on jaywalkers, bicyclists and drivers of electric scooters who ran red lights. According to Shanxi Economics Daily, he has collected a dozen plastic bags filled with notebooks.
"I was in a hurry to pick up my child from school and ran a red light on my scooter," said a resident, whom Xinhua News Agency identified as Wang. Wang was required to write out the phrase.
"At first I was resentful, but afterward, I realized I was in the wrong," Wang said.
The practice has received a mixed response online, with praise and criticism offered in equal measure. However, some legal experts raised questions about whether Ji was overstepping his authority.
Tian Siyuan, an associate professor at Tsinghua University School of Law, said that while he supports efforts to educate rather than punish people for minor traffic or pedestrian offenses, the officer had no legal basis for making people write.
"As China is building a service-oriented government, traffic officers should also be service-oriented, focusing on education supported by punishment," Tian was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
Linfen's traffic police bureau told People's Daily on Wednesday that the penalty was "a personal act" and that Ji had been ordered to stop using it to allow for further discussion.
According to China's traffic safety laws and regulations, pedestrians, passengers and drivers of nonmotorized vehicles face a warning or a fine ranging from 5 to 50 yuan ($0.70 to $7) for various violations. While a warning can be given in verbal or written form, no regulation explicitly states how it can be delivered.
Unconventional punishments for breaches of safety laws have been seen across China. In 2015, police officers in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, punished jaywalkers by making them wear green jackets and hats and stop other jaywalkers. In Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, drivers who failed to dim their full-beam headlights for oncoming motorists have been made to sit on a chair and stare at their full-beam headlights for one minute.
In both cases, the methods were voluntary and offenders could choose instead to pay a fine.