CHINA'S top judge has demanded a crackdown on a wave of violent crime, including murder and robbery, that has swept the country this year, the official media reported yesterday. The President of the Supreme People's Court, Ren Jianxin, said: ''We must certainly be swift and severe when issuing punishments . . . Our hands must not be allowed to be soft in the least.'' ''Our crackdown must hammer out a momentum, hammer out our prestige and hammer out a clear social result,'' he said. The China Daily quoted Mr Ren as saying that violent crime increased by 17.5 per cent during the first 10 months of this year compared with the same period a year earlier, even though the overall crime rate remained roughly the same. According to Xinhua (the New China News Agency), he said: ''Special attacks will be organised and targeted at criminal activities that have aroused strong public complaints.'' In another Xinhua despatch, Vice-Minister for Public Security Bai Jingfu warned that the number of major crimes had risen sharply this year. ''There's been a greater danger. The social order in some districts and regions has been poor. The activities of criminal elements have been rampant. They have drawn strong public discontent,'' he said. Mr Bai ordered investigating teams under the public security apparatus at all levels to step up their efforts to fight crime. Police forces should select a stronger team of investigators, boost spending to upgrade equipment and enhance their investigative power, he said. Xinhua said public security units at all levels had tackled more than one million criminal cases between January and November and confiscated a total of 3.5 billion yuan (HK$4.69 billion).