Officials stop forum, saying investigators failed to adhere to required procedures An attempt to set up the first national private detectives' association was yesterday thwarted by authorities who said the investigators had failed to follow the necessary procedures. More than 100 mainland private detectives had gathered in Shenyang , Liaoning province , for a two-day conference and seminar yesterday to discuss, among other issues, the establishment of a national professional body to strengthen discipline among industry members and raise industry standards. But police officers and the city's Civil Affairs Department officials told organisers that the meeting could not proceed and the detectives must follow national regulations if they wanted to set up a national body. Meng Guanggang , a key promoter and director of the Liaoning Kedun Investigation Company, told participants that the conference had been cancelled. Discouraged, most people left and the seminar also fell apart. Mr Meng admitted that the detectives did not have official approval to set up the association. 'According to government regulations, the establishment of a national association needs the approval of the ministry-level government department in charge,' he said. 'But our profession doesn't fall under any departments.' The private detective industry is booming on the mainland, with about 100,000 investigators. But the profession is essentially outlawed on the mainland. Almost all private detective firms are registered as 'investigation' or 'consultancy' companies. The sector has nevertheless flourished amid a rise in business fraud, infidelity and legal disputes, which police are reluctant to investigate. Detectives said there was an urgent need for a professional body to set and monitor standards. 'We don't want to see chaos ... We are afraid that if nothing is done, the profession could be ruined. We need a national body to regulate the industry,' Mr Meng said. Other participants speculated over why officials decided to cancel the meeting. Nie Tiannan , director of the Tianyan Business Consultancy Company in Henan province , said: 'If we had used 'investigators' - not private detectives - the situation might not have come to this. 'It will take time for the government to accept private detectives.' Deng Yang , of the China Social Investigation Company, agreed. 'You have to understand that in Chinese the word 'detective' implies [doing police work like] investigating criminals. This could lead government officials to suspect that we may be overstepping the line and want to stir up trouble,' Mr Deng said. This suspicion was confirmed by a police officer who said private detectives were not welcome because they caused social problems. He added that the mainland lacked laws to regulate the industry. 'Since 1993, China has not had any laws or regulations which say what private detectives can or cannot do,' the officer said, referring to a ban on the business 11 years ago. 'China's legal system is not mature and private detectives could act counter-productively by uncovering cases which can cause social instability.' Mr Meng said the private detectives would keep fighting for their goals despite the setback.