POLICE claim to have smashed a Mafia-style gang which had been terrorising the industrial city of Jiamusi, in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, for several months. A total of 65 alleged gangsters were formally arrested on July 24 following a massive police crackdown, the Heilongjiang Legal Daily reported. The announcement of the arrests led to a spontaneous celebration in which local residents cheered and let off firecrackers, it added. Prior to the crackdown, the newspaper said the gang had ''run rampant'' throughout the town, extorting money, organising protection rackets, robbing cars and trains and monopolising the local pork market. The paper said: ''This Mafia-style gang sent people to collect black taxes, demand black money and handle black business. ''They even set up a self-styled, underground public security bureau which indiscriminately executed innocent people, posing a very serious threat to public order.'' It was claimed police appeared powerless to intervene, allowing the gang to behave as if it were a law unto itself. Many observers alleged several senior public security officers had been bought off by the gangsters. In a demonstration of its power, the gang organised a 150 vehicle procession through the city centre in May for gang boss, Han Jie, who was killed during a shootout with a rival gang. The procession lasted more than four hours, with gang members taunting local officials and sounding their car horns outside the local government building and police headquarters. Police eventually moved in, detaining 24 demonstrators. Public security sources in Beijing said the Jiamusi incident was not an isolated case and that there were dozens of such large-scale gangs operating throughout Heilongjiang. ''The problem is worst in the remote border towns which are difficult to supervise from [the provincial capital] Harbin, let alone Beijing,'' one source said. ''Qiqihar [north of the Daqing Oilfield] is particularly bad. I've heard of at least four big gangs operating out of there. As a result the crime rate there has shot up alarmingly,'' he added. Police believe it is these Heilongjiang-based gangs that have been largely responsible for the massive upsurge in railway banditry over the last year. Heilongjiang has one of the densest rail networks in China, allowing bandits to travel all over the country. Gangs from the province are said to have attacked trains as far south as Fujian as well as across the border in Russia and Mongolia. It is feared that many gangs have teamed up with Russian Mafia-style gangs but police sources say there is more evidence to suggest the Russian and Chinese gangs are in competition rather than co-operating.