Sars expert Zhong Nanshan again became the focus of attention on the mainland last week after his laptop was stolen and recovered by police within 10 days. Dr Zhong, director of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases, was regarded as the mainland's most authoritative expert on the Sars outbreak after he challenged official statements about the outbreak in 2003. Guangzhou's Nanfang Weekend reported last Thursday that Dr Zhong had been robbed of his laptop by motorbike-riding gangsters in Yuexiu district on May 8, but the computer was found by police 10 days later. Provincial party chief Zhang Dejiang ordered the police to 'solve the case as soon as possible'. Guangzhou police then deployed more than 100 officers to search for the laptop, which was said to contain many important documents. The officers searched second-hand markets and offered a reward of 20,000 yuan to anyone who could provide clues. The police retrieved the laptop 10 days later, and also found 83 mobile phones and 28 laptops stolen in other cases. But instead of praise, the police were criticised in online chat rooms, with posters accusing the authorities of giving special treatment to a celebrity and complaining that their own crime reports were often ignored. 'If the victim was an ordinary citizen, or if the party chief hadn't given special orders, the case would probably have no result,' an opinion piece on Xinhuanet.com said. 'Do our police serve the masses or serve celebrities?' 'This case is actually an embarrassment for the law, because the police should treat us equally,' another opinion piece on Sina.com said. In the same issue of Nanfang Weekend, Dr Zhong was quoted as saying he supported the detention and relocation of vagrants as a way of reducing crime. His remarks were seen as supporting the resumption of the custody and relocation system, which was abolished in 2003 after college student Sun Zhigang was beaten to death in custody. 'Although under the old system there were cases of wrongful detention, I don't think we should have abolished and condemned the whole system as bad,' Doctor Zhong said. 'We must admit that the old system was better in dealing with the problem of the transient population. Guangzhou has not yet found a better way to deal with it since it was abolished.'