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An Arresting Series

Updated: 2021-02-06

Police officer Zhang Peng never imagined that he would one day have to deal with the widespread recognition that comes with fame. Many have flocked to his workplace, the Pozijie police station in Changsha, provincial capital of Hunan province, to take photos in front of the station, with him and other police officers. A primary school student who visited the police station with her mother even told him that she wanted to become a police officer like him one day. This moved him deeply.

Stills of the second season of documentary series The Guardians of Jiefangxi, which shows policeman Zhang Peng and his colleagues from Pozijie police station patrolling the streets. CHINA DAILY

His popularity is the consequence of two seasons of the documentary series, The Guardians of Jiefangxi, which shows the daily work of police officers of the Pozijie police station that governs part of Pozijie subdistrict, including Jiefangxi road, a bustling business area of Changsha. It made a huge splash online among younger audiences. As a result, the police station has become a popular site, with some of its police officers, including Zhang, becoming online celebrities.

Produced by media company TVZone Media and Chinese online video-sharing platform Bilibili, the first season of the documentary was aired in 2019, and achieved 8.8 points out of 10 on China's popular review site Douban. Following its popularity, a second season was aired at the end of 2020 and achieved an even higher score of 9.2.

Crew members spent about three months shooting source material for each season. They set up discreet equipment in the police station in a way that would not disturb its everyday operations.

All of the stories "are totally true without any playwright's interference or preview", according to Tang Jiancong, the chief planner of the documentary series. "For each season, we collected material from more than 300 cases, and chose nearly 40 of them to show in the 10-episode documentary," says Tang.

"We hope to popularize basic knowledge of the law in a format that young people are familiar with, and to reflect society from the perspective of police officers," Xiao Shu, director of the documentary series, tells China Daily.

"When watching the specific cases and processes of law enforcement, people will be able to understand the law better and the necessity to abide by it. In this manner we can popularize the law in a vivid way," she adds.

Xiao hopes young people will like it, and then recommend it to their elders.

"We chose police officers with unique personalities, like Zhang, who looks serious, but does have a kind heart, and officer Liu Xingyu, who has a good sense of humor and is considerate when negotiating with suspects," says Xiao.

"Their personalities may be different from the stereotypical image of police officers that many people might have in their mind before watching the series."

Stills of the second season of documentary series The Guardians of Jiefangxi, which shows policeman Zhang Peng and his colleagues from Pozijie police station patrolling the streets. CHINA DAILY

Moreover, they added many elements in the postproduction to make it lively, including online buzzwords, amusing sound effects and background music.

"Many cases we witnessed in the police station are not about extremely evil things. Instead, they tend to show shortcomings in human nature, such as a suspect's absurd explanations. We sometimes ridicule such shortcomings in postproduction to emphasize the amusement, since we want to tell people that, although such things seem funny, they may break the law," says Xiao.

"In this way, we try to spread more knowledge about the law, enhance people's memory, and reflect the police officers' professionalism in law enforcement. I believe it is an advanced, effective way of expressing this, much better than a boring lecture," she adds.

Compared with the first season, the second shows the work of more types of police officer, such as traffic police and special police, and more criminal cases, such as the apprehension of drug dealers. The second season, which concluded on Jan 1, also focuses on the cultivation of new police officers.

In the documentary series, many social issues are elaborated upon, including drunken driving, domestic disputes and juvenile delinquency.

Xiao cites an example in the fifth episode in which a drunken man fell down some stairs and suffered a serious head injury. Several people passed him by without offering aid. By the time the police were called, he had passed away.

"This case aroused enthusiastic discussion online, about what a passerby should do. Some people say they don't want to help the man for fear of being scammed, while others say even if they don't want to help him, they would have called the police," says Xiao.

"I hope such discussions can make people realize that a benevolent action may make a difference, or even totally change a person," she adds.

Zhang and some other police officers went to universities in Changsha to lecture on the dangers of telemarketing scams.

He hails the documentary for helping him fulfill his mission. "With the online popularity, people are more convinced when we try to pass on law-related knowledge to them," says Zhang.

His colleague, police officer Huang Junlong, who is also head of the Pozijie police station, says: "When our officers become online celebrities, they find themselves under greater scrutiny by the general public, which also urges them to attain a higher standard in their work. This is pressure, but also motivation."

Source: china.org.cn