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Chinese Officials Accused of Protecting Gangs
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Sixty-two government officials have been accused of protecting criminal gangs in their precincts, according to China's Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP).

"Procurators at all levels have detained more than 17,600 criminal gang suspects from March 2006 to March 2007, and brought more than 10,000 of them to court," said a SPP source.

Police say they have broken up more than 3,000 gangs in the past 14 months, 54 of which were given illicit protection by government officials.

The SPP source said local procurators have set up special working groups to crack down on criminal gangs and to dig out any official sponsors involved.

In one of the most prominent cases, Xu Xiaogang, former vice director of the provincial public security department of east China's Jiangxi Province, was sentenced earlier this month to life imprisonment for graft and illegal possession of guns.

Xu received bribes -- including cash bribes of 850,000 yuan (US$109,000) and US$10,000 and two jade bracelets worth 82,000 yuan (US$10,500) -- from a local gang that operated a series of business scams, ran underground casinos, and possessed an arsenal of guns.

Xiong Xinxing, the head of the gang, was sentenced to death and executed on Jan. 11 this year.

Zhou Yongkang, minister of public security, last month ordered a continued national crackdown on criminal gangs, noting that two big events -- the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and the Beijing Olympic Games -- are around the corner.

(Xinhua News Agency May 8, 2007)

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