FANG Lin is not exactly what the Chinese Government would deem a ''legal person''. The 28-year-old entrepreneur has been in and out of police custody and ''administrative detention'' more times than he would care to remember and his current business activities could hardly be considered legitimate. Nevertheless, by far the most lucrative part of Fang's growing business empire involves legal person (LP) shares. ''I've made more than 300,000 yuan [about HK$402,000 at the official rate] in the last six months on the LP share market,'' Fang boasted over several glasses of XO at a luxury Beijing hotel. ''Prices on the LP share market are rising much faster than on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges, and as long as you have the right connections you can trade huge amounts of LP shares without anyone taking any notice at all,'' he explained. Fang's connection to the LP market is an old school friend who manages a collective enterprise in the suburbs of Beijing who regularly lends him the collective's legal person certificate and documentation in return for a percentage of the profits. ''No one really checks to see if I'm actually entitled to use the LP certificate or not,'' Fang said. ''But should any problem arise, the officials can usually be bought off,'' he added. Regulators, while naturally denying they could be bribed, have admitted there is a big problem with non-legal persons trading LP shares. LP shares are traded nationwide on two quotation systems, the National Electronic Trading System (NETS) run by the People's Bank of China and the better known Securities Trading Automated Quotation System (STAQ) set up by the Stock Exchange Executive Council in Beijing. STAQ has some 200 members scattered all over the country and officials freely admit it is difficult to keep track of what is going on all the time. Speculators like Fang Lin are drawn to the LP share market and other unorthodox equity markets such as the black market internal securities exchange in the port city of Tianjin, not just because of the possible returns but because they are easily accessible. Despite improvements in China's telecommunications, speculators say you really have to be in Shanghai or Shenzhen if you going to play the two official exchanges effectively. Unfortunately, China's share craze is not restricted to those two designated cities. Just about every major town from Qiqihar in the northeast of Manchuria to Xigaze in the west of Tibet has its speculators and every roadside bookstore has at least one text on how to play the market. The only way for these people to get a slice of the action is to bend the rules and move into the LP or internal share markets. Local authorities have taken steps to crack down on illegal share trading and better ''educate'' the populace as to what is and what is not acceptable in the world of securities, but many local officials have conceded they are fighting a losing battle. ''The standard of legal education in China is generally very low, so to expect ordinary people to understand the legal intricacies of share trading is asking a little too much,'' one provincial government official said privately. ''Personally, I think the only way people will learn is if the market collapses and they lose everything but then that might cause social disorder which of course would not be a good thing,'' he added. By all accounts, the explosive growth of the LP share market will continue this year, not only because it can't be regulated but because as one analyst succinctly put it, ''people in China simply have got too much money''.