“Gangsters and police belong to the same family.” For hundreds of years, mainlanders have used this popular idiom to illustrate rampant government corruption and blatant collusion between law enforcers and criminals.
The phenomena disappeared after Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic and implemented totalitarian control. But it has made a strong comeback in recent years as the mainland’s breakneck economic growth and corrupt government and law-enforcement regime have presented lucrative opportunities for criminals assisted by government officials and police officers. But to the alarm of the leadership, triad bosses are no longer satisfied with mere shakedowns, while bribing policemen to turn a blind eye. Learning from their ancestors and foreign counterparts, many have begun infiltrating Communist Party and government departments, notably the police force. Smart triad bosses have hidden behind legitimate fronts by paying for political positions and have become deputies to the National People’s Congress or the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, from city to provincial and national level. Some have also sent underlings to study and enrol in police academies.
Forget about the Falun Gong or bloody countryside riots. Rampant collusion between officials and gangsters is a clear and present danger to the central government.
Zhu Entao , a former assistant minister of public security and a CPPCC delegate, said on Saturday that homegrown and overseas triads had infiltrated the government at various levels and some officials were operating undercover for organised crime syndicates.
While adding that the cases were isolated, Mr Zhu noted, however, that infiltration by organised crime syndicates was a rising trend and admitted that it was difficult to tackle because triads maintained deep roots and connections within the government. The true scale of the problem, and the real worry for the leadership, is illustrated by the Ministry of Public Security’s announcement last month that it would launch another nationwide strike-hard campaign targeting organised crime later this year, following a similar campaign spanning 1999 and 2000.
Last May, official media reported a shocking case involving Wang Zhenzhong , deputy director of the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau in Fujian .
He is said to have ordered police to shoot dead a second-hand car dealer in 2001, but it later turned out that another car dealer paid Wang for the shooting, and a dozen police officers were arrested. Wang managed to flee overseas with his mistress and US$10 million in cash, and is still at large.
He is not the only senior government official to behave like a triad boss. Last June, official media reported that Lu Debin , a former deputy governor of Henan , was arrested for having his wife chopped to pieces. It was not just a murder case, but more of a mafia operation. Lu contacted a deputy director of the Xinxiang Public Security Bureau, who contracted out the killing to two thugs. He has since been sentenced to death.
Many law enforcement officials can confirm that these cases are just the tip of the iceberg, reflecting a systemic degradation within China’s law-enforcement system.
Strike-hard campaigns will only have a temporary effect, and a permanent solution lies in a total overhaul of China’s justice system.