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Tightening Net to Find Web Offenders

The government is cracking down on Internet crime which is rising by the day. The State Council has submitted a draft about the crackdown to this week's session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC). According to Yang Jingyu, director of the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, the draft focuses on criminal law concerning the 20-odd Internet-related crimes discovered in China so far.

It also demands that Internet companies should inform the police or other related departments when discovering crimes or information considered to be harmful to the state on the Internet.

Although a newcomer to the cyber age, China's rapidly increasing online population has encountered the same challenges faced by veteran Internet users such as the United States.

"They (the criminals) intrude into or destroy the computer system, and then swindle, steal, embezzle money or steal state secrets through the computer,'' said Zhang Pinhua, chief procurator of the People's Procuratorate of east China's Jiangsu Province, one of the country's most advanced in information technology. "The nature of the crimes are becoming worse and the fields and areas in jeopardy are getting wider.''

Statistics from the Ministry of Public Security show 1,000 cases of cyber crime were reported last year. This year it took just six months to reach that same figure. In some places, such as east China's Fujian Province, the increase in cyber crime has even outpaced growth in the number of Internet users.

Compared with traditional crimes, Internet-related crimes take less time to carry out and the perpetrators are more difficult to track down. Law enforcers are faced with new challenges in investigations.

To make matters worse, while there are a lack of efficient measures to curb cyber crime, hackers have increasingly convenient access to a variety of advanced methods and tools.

Bao Shaokun, chief procurator in Fujian Province, said: "A common net user could easily turn into an offender.''

The issue of cyber crime has become so acute that the 8th World Conference of the Asia Crime Prevention Foundation which was held in Beijing earlier this month devoted a whole day's discussion to it.

Apart from a call for more legislation, participants also agreed to enhance international co-operation to tackle the new type of crime as the Internet revolution continues.

Michael Sussmann with the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the US Department of Justice suggested that a network be set up to better track down criminals and that prosecutors from different countries should work together to collect and share evidence.

"The solution has to be global,'' said Sussmann. "It has to be formed on an international basis.''

(China Daily 10/24/2000)

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