The Chinese police are not exactly a barrel of laughs.
Especially when the joke is on them.
Law enforcement officials in the eastern province of Anhui arrested an animal breeder this week after he wisecracked on social media that he had given two sleepy, thieving dogs the names "City Officer" and "Traffic Warden."
Police hauled the man off to jail Monday, accusing him of sharing "insulting information on law enforcement officers" on popular platform WeChat. The man, identified only as Mr. Ban, will be detained for 10 days, said police in the Yingzhou district of the city of Fuyang.
Local news outlets published screenshots of Ban's posts, which featured anecdotes about the daily shenanigans of the cane corsos he bred for sale.
"Named 'City Officer' and doggone goes to sleep after eating," one post read.
"Caught in the act! City Officer went to steal shoes," he wrote in another, as he introduced a video. "Once the Traffic Warden came over, they started fighting."
On Weibo, a microblogging platform where police posted their statement on the arrest, many users added quips of their own.
"This is insulting to dogs," one user wrote. "Dogs are such good companions, why would you give them such names?"
Known as chengguan, "city officers" are urban management officials who maintain order and enforce local laws in public spaces. Though unarmed, they have developed an unsavoury reputation as bullies, clashing violently with unlicensed street vendors and assisting in home demolitions and the killing of pets.
A 2014 study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found that they were the least popular officials in the government and had the "worst public image."
District police officers confirmed by phone that Ban had indeed named his dogs "City Officer" and "Traffic Warden." The police's official announcement said that he had repented his actions, but that it was too late: He would still be jailed in accordance with Chinese law.
Many on social media said they considered Ban's jailing unwarranted, while acknowledging that his dogs did not have the most flattering names.
"It is definitely wrong to insult a profession, but if a dog were named after another profession, would that be punished in the same way?" one commenter asked.
"The local police station needs to be factual and precise about what it considers crime," another said. "To force a punishment can damage the dignity of the law and does not serve the public."
Some pet owners wondered if they could also get in trouble.
"I've already had Obama at home for the past 10 years, and Trump for the past two or three. Don't know when I'll be extradited," a man said.
A popular name for Chinese pets, baozi , or steamed bun, doubles as an unflattering nickname for the country's leader, Xi Jinping. Using it in online jokes has led to arrests.
Written by: Tiffany May
© 2019 THE NEW YORK TIMES