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China uses crime campaign to track spies

Sixteen people - including this woman - were executed in Beijing 20 April, as part of a nationwide 'strike blackness and wipe out evil' crackdown.
Sixteen people - including this woman - were executed in Beijing 20 April, as part of a nationwide 'strike blackness and wipe out evil' crackdown.  

BEIJING, China -- China is using its Strike Hard campaign against violent crime as an alternative means of tracking down U.S. and Taiwanese spies, Beijing sources say.

The annual anti-crime crusade usually targets dissidents and other political enemies of the state, in addition to triad societies, underground gangs and felons including murderers and drug traffickers.

However, a source close to Beijing's security machine said this year, a key goal of the 90-day Strike Hard campaign was counter-espionage and safeguarding national security.

The source said while the current campaign was launched just before the spy plane incident of April 1, the leadership had from the beginning of the year wanted to contain the damage to state security allegedly perpetrated by agents from the United States and Taiwan.

In addition to Drs Gao Zhan and Li Shaoming, respectively a green card holder and a U.S. citizen, a dozens of ethnic Chinese scholars and researchers are believed to have been held under the vague charge of "leaking state secrets."

A Western diplomat familiar with security matters said given the on-going diplomatic difficulties with the U.S., the so-called anti-spy operations might go on throughout the summer.

Meanwhile, in an internal speech on the fight-crime campaign, China's Politburo member in charge of law and order, Luo Gan, deplored the difficulties faced by the police, state security departments and other units.

Law and order 'deteriorating rapidly'

Luo, who heads the party's Commission on Political and Legal Affairs, pointed out the law and order situation was deteriorating rapidly and that it posed a big threat to the administration.

Referring to the spate of explosions and bombing incidents that had hit several provinces the past year, the Politburo member said "social contradictions" had intensified and that Chinese were resorting to violent means to vent their discontent.

"We must think of ways to diffuse contradictions in society," Luo reportedly said, adding channels should be set up for disaffected elements to vent their frustrations through peaceful means.

Luo, considered a crony of National People's Congress chairman Li Peng, also indicated that the budget for various law enforcement units was far from sufficient.

"Many gangs and criminals have more sophisticated arms than the police do," Luo said. "In remote areas, police do not even have the funds to buy bullet-proof vests for frontline policemen."

Since the start of the Strike Hard campaign, several dozen criminals have been executed.

As with past campaigns, party authorities have asked the police and judicial departments to speed up investigations and to dispense harsher punishments than usual.



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