34 arrested for selling fake IDs

China Daily, June 1, 2012

Police have detained 34 people in Fujian province suspected of selling fake identification certificates to Chinese looking to cross the border illegally, authorities said on Thursday.

The arrests came during a swoop on a suspected hideout by more than 200 public security officers from the provincial capital, Fuzhou, as well as Beijing, and Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces, on May 16.

"It could be the biggest illegal border-crossing operation discovered in our province this year," said Zhang Jie, a publicity official of Fuzhou's frontier defense corps, which are special police units directly under the Ministry of Public Security.

Officers seized 217 counterfeit seals of government administrations at various levels, 206 fake certificates, including passports, visas and bankbooks, 11 computers and 24 mobile phones.

Authorities declined to give specific details on where the suspects were detained. The case is still under investigation.

Zhang said that in early February Fuzhou police discovered that the suspects were luring people who intended to cross the border illegally by offering fake passports in Fuqing, also in Fujian.

"The ringleaders - two are surnamed Yan and one is called Chen - were our targets, but the principal suspects are hiding overseas," he said.

Fuzhou police also discovered that some suspects were from other parts of the country but came to Fujian to provide fake documents for people crossing the border illegally, "which was the reason why we needed help from frontier defense corps in the capital and the other two provinces", Zhang said.

The suspects "facilitated" 140 people with the intention of crossing the border illegally for prices ranging from 20,000 yuan to 190,000 yuan (US$3,140 to US$29,800) by making fake tourist visas and passports since 2011, a statement from the Fuzhou frontier force said.

Zhang Qiubo, director of research on frontier defense at the Chinese People's Armed Police Force Academy, told China Daily that earning more money is the main reason people choose to cross the border illegally.

"A few residents who are not educated and have a small income may illegally cross the border to Taiwan and some cities in Southeast Asia, aiming to earn more money or find a better job," Zhang Qiubo said, adding that most illegal border-crossing cases happen in coastal cities.

However, she added that the number of cases has declined in recent years, after Chinese departments eased exit-entry procedures and enhanced supervision.

Dai Peng, director of criminal investigation for the Chinese People's Public Security University, said the Chinese government has made many achievements in the fight against illegal border crossing.

"For the special geographical position, Fujian has a large passenger flow in the customs every day, which provides many chances of crossing the border illegally," Dai said.

The solution to the problem is to enrich residents' lives and narrow the income gap, Dai said.

"After all, the illegal border crossing is not a simple criminal case. Instead, it's a social issue, which needs other departments' cooperation," he added.

Zhu Ming, an outbound tourism manager in Fujian for China Travel Service, said sometimes it's not easy to tell whether their clients' documents are real or fake.

"Our staff can only rely on experience to screen the materials," she said. "However, if the applicant's identification certificate is counterfeit, he or she is unlikely to pass the exit-entry frontier inspection."

Zhu also said that travel agencies will ask for a deposit as a guarantee from tourists, in order to prevent them from escaping the tour group or staying abroad illegally.

"We don't worry too much about stowaways because the cost of this approach can be high," she added.

In addition, the exit-entry administration under the Beijing public security bureau has developed an e-passport with a chip that records applicants' fingerprints across the city since May 15, aiming to prevent someone from crossing the border illegally with fake certificates.

Last year, the frontier police force in China uncovered 936 cases of illegal immigration that involved 2,235 people, according to official statistics. The number of cases increased 14 percent from the previous year, when police uncovered 821 such cases and arrested 1,492 criminals.