Three years of a campaign against organised crime on the mainland has resulted in the rise of a powerful police department.
The full name of the Ministry of Public Security agency is the Office to Fight Organised Crime, also known as Daheiban. It used to be an obscure, puppet agency, but since 2006 it has gradually moved to become the centre of the fight against crime on the mainland.
In that time, the Daheiban has brought down more than 13,000 organised crime cells and syndicates, according to a report released yesterday by the ministry. Nearly 90,000 suspects were arrested and more than 2,700 firearms confiscated.
It also handled more than 108,000 offences said to be related to organised crime, or 36,000 a year.
The report also reveals that nearly half of the gangsters who have faced criminal charges have received severe punishment, ranging from five years in jail to the death penalty.
The report quoted an official from the office as saying: '[We] have insisted on the anti-organised crime campaign and shovelled aside some criminal enterprises that have been strangling various businesses and industry sectors for years.
'Residents in many places can now breathe safely.'
When it first started out, Daheiban investigators often ran into walls. At the office's first press conference in May 2006, a senior official complained to the People's Daily that investigators were facing powerful regional protectionism when tackling some cases. 'Some government leaders are afraid that our investigation will create fears and drive away possible investment. They don't want to admit that organised crime exists in their region,' the official was quoted as saying.
Because investigators received little assistance from local colleagues, the Daheiban gathered enough evidence to charge only 28 organisations across the country in the first two months.
But local residents gave them huge support. Unlike many other campaigns launched by the central government, the organised crime crackdown was welcomed by ordinary people. In many areas, residents could not run a small business without paying bribes to gangsters who controlled the district, and the high protection fees drove many of them bankrupt.
'Reports from ordinary residents are one of our most important sources and will never sink to the bottom of the ocean,' the official said in yesterday's report. 'As long as there is a contact method, we will call back to obtain more information. As soon as there is a clue, we will launch a case and monitor it until the end.'
The Daheiban has also developed ways to bypass regional protectionism. When it receives multiple reports from residents of the same region, for instance, investigators explore the area in plain clothes to gather first-hand information without informing local colleagues. Once they have enough evidence, they form a task force, using police from another province, and then officially launch the investigation.
The Daheiban has become a trademark of the nationwide campaign. In Chongqing , six criminals posted a fake phone number for the Daheiban in the municipality and extorted more than 1 million yuan (HK$1.14 million) from various victims. They were arrested this month in Liuzhou, Guangxi .