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Special unit to tackle gangs
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A new division is being planned to combat growing mafia-style gangs in the country, a senior official of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has said.

"Based on the resources of the existing organized crime investigation division, a special department will be set up to tackle the problem," a director of the organized crime investigation division, who declined to be named for security reasons, told China Daily.

He said the ministry also plans to push for legislation to better tackle such crimes. "It is ideal to have a special regulation or law," he said.

The director also said police are keeping "a close eye" on possible crimes stemming from unemployment caused by the ongoing financial crisis. The job market in the labor-intensive export sector shrank in the third quarter because falling overseas demand has forced the closure of many factories.

The director said the fight against gang-related crime would be a "lasting task".

"In the foreseeable future, gangs will remain active as the country undergoes dramatic social and economic changes.

"Murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, assault ... they dare do anything," the director said. "Gang-related crimes have become a threat to our social stability and the economy."

On Dec 5, three top gangsters received the death penalty in Yingkou, Liaoning province, after they were convicted of more than 20 charges including organizing gang-related crimes, murder and illegal possession of guns. Another 93 gangsters were given prison terms ranging from several years to life.

Ministry figures show that police have handled about 900 gang-related cases and locked up thousands of criminals since a crackdown was launched in 2006; and more than 70,000 crimes linked to gangs have been solved. As the result of the crackdown, serious crimes including murder, robbery and physical attacks were down about 4 percent over the two years.

Figures from the Supreme People's Court also show that courts across the country dealt with 337 gang crimes last year, up 161 percent year-on-year. More than 6,000 criminals were sentenced to various prison terms in 2006 and last year.

Liang Huaren, a professor in criminal law at China University of Political Science and Law, said tremendous economic and social changes that the country is going through is behind gang crimes. The large number of laid-off workers and migrants, as well as the widening gap between the rich and poor, are also reasons.

Gangs are typically involved in organized prostitution, gambling, drug production and trafficking, the MPS official said. Construction, transportation and mining sectors are also high-risk areas that attract gang crimes, he added.

"Gangs are becoming involved in more areas and industries. They often intervene in various kinds of money disputes and conduct racketeering."

He also said the ministry will better cooperate with discipline supervision and prosecution departments to root out corrupt government officials who shelter gangsters.

"To evade police crackdowns, gangs often seek the protection of government officials by every possible means," Wang Wei, vice-minister of supervision, said in an earlier interview.

"We must be vigilant. If found to be true, there should be no mercy for those officials, especially government leaders," he said.

(China Daily December 22, 2008)

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