Nicknamed the Kingdom of Bicycles, China is famous not only for the number of riders, but also for its widespread bicycle theft. About 4 million bicycles are reported missing every year, according to the Ministry of Public Security.
It is believed the lax administration of bicycle traders, especially the second-hand market, is the root cause.
Yesterday, six government agencies announced at a press conference in Beijing a joint "bike theft strike" campaign nationwide to last from this month until July. They aim to establish a "real name registration system," based on one's identity card, when buying or selling bicycles.
At the same time, according to Liu Hongsheng, an official of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine, all bicycles in China will be assigned serial numbers. How to effectively enforce the policy, however, is still under study.
China has 470 million bicycles, of which almost one out of every 100 is stolen. In large cities, it is so rampant that some people experience multiple thefts.
Chen Liangwen, a PhD candidate at Peking University, told China Daily that since he was a freshman six years ago, he has had six bicycles stolen. The thieves "have no preferences, they take every bike they can lay their hands on," he said.
Chen's experience is not unique. "Bicycle theft has been an acute threat to social security," said Ma Weiya, an official with the Ministry of Public Security, at yesterday's press conference. Ma reported that he also had one of his bicycles stolen.
In a letter to the minister of public security last year, a young handicapped man from Nanchang of Jiangxi Province complained that he had saved money for three years to purchase an electric bike, but it was stolen after only one month.
"I even thought of committing suicide several times," he wrote.
In the new crackdown on bicycle theft, those who have "knowingly" taken part in the illegal businesses, but surrender the vehicles to public security departments within one month starting from yesterday will get lighter punishment, Ma said.
Citizens are also encouraged to report the loss of their bicycles by calling 110, or logging on to www.mps.gov.cn.
The Ministry of Public Security is also handing out rewards between 100 yuan (US$12.9) and 5,000 yuan (US$645.9) to people who give information on stolen bicycles.
(China Daily March 1, 2007)