This case describes a transition of Chinese policies and practices on urban vagrants and mendicants. In 1982, China's State Council enacted the Provisions for Detaining and Repatriating Urban Vagrants and Mendicants, in which the major administrative measures can be generalised as 'detention and repatriation'. This policy had been in effect for 21 years by 2003. Such policy change was triggered by an incident in which Sun Zhigang, a college graduate who worked in Guangzhou (Guangdong Province), was mistaken as an urban vagrant or mendicant and sent to the local detaining and repatriating post because he was found having no means of identification in the street. Three days later, he was beaten to death by the detaining and repatriating staff during the law enforcement process.