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Home >> China
UPDATED: 11:52, June 23, 2007
Chinese police arrest 37 for illegal guns in gang crackdown
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Chinese police have arrested 37 alleged gang members on a series of charges including theft, intimidation and illegal detention of firearms in north China's Hebei Province.

Police in Tangshan city seized 330 rounds of ammunition and 35 firearms, including 19 sporting guns and four small-bore rifles, a spokesman with the Hebei Provincial Department of Public Security told Xinhua on Friday.

Alleged ringleader Yang Shukuan and his accomplices were also charged with operating a criminal gang, intimidation, theft, fraud, inciting violence, fighting in public and disorder.

Yang is suspected of swindling more than 180 million yuan (23.5 million U.S. dollars) from four companies and an individual since May 2005.

A company in neighboring Tianjin municipality was suing the Huayun Industrial Group Co. Ltd. owned by Yang for failing to pay debts of 320 million yuan (42 million U.S. dollars).

"The gang gravely disrupted life in Tangshan, especially in Guye District and Qianxi County," the spokesman said, noting that police had investigated 40 crimes allegedly linked to the gang.

The industrial city of Tangshan, 200 kilometers east of Beijing, is famous for having been struck by one of the deadliest earthquakes of the 20th century. Measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, the monster earthquake killed 242,000 people and injured 164,000 others in 1976.

Yang, 38, of the Hui ethnic group, was a political advisor for the Tangshan municipal government. His gang came into existence in 1998 when he gathered a group of ex-convicts and unemployed people. In May 2000, Yang founded the Huayun Industrial Group Co. Ltd. with a registered capital of 100 million yuan (12.5 million U.S. dollars) as a cover for his organized crimes. The company was involved in trading, textiles, food and mining.

Local police began an undercover investigation in May last year after obtaining information from anonymous sources, and Yang and five of his accomplices were arrested on March 19, the police spokesman said.

Yang came into the public spotlight when photos of his armored car and other military vehicles and luxury cars were posted on the internet.

Yang, who is being held in the provincial capital Shijiazhuang, allegedly said the armored car was a fake made from remodeling an old Russian-style car.

The police spokesman said 17 vehicles, including four for special purposes, were confiscated.

More than 40 people were involved in the gang and almost 100 experienced police officers from across the province are still investigating the case, he said.

A police officer in Tangshan, Dai Yunlong, was arrested on May 10 on charges of selling two handguns to Yang, he said.

Chinese laws prohibits the illegal possession, production and trade of firearms and explosives. Police have confiscated 12,350 tons of explosives and 502,000 guns in the past five years, which they say has led to a drop in the number of explosive and gun violence cases.

"We are now going all out to find suspects who are still at large, probe police gun management problems and identify the people who protected Yang, including local Party and government officials and police officers," the spokesman said.

China has stepped up efforts to fight organized crime which has risen along with fast economic growth.

China's law enforcement agencies have cracked 125 cases and prosecuted 246 suspects involved in organized crimes during the period from the beginning of 2006 to March this year, government statistics show.

Also in Hebei, the Shijiazhuang Municipal Intermediate People's Court on Thursday sentenced 14 gang members to death for murder and other violent crimes while another four received life imprisonment.

Ringleaders Zhang Baoyi, Gao Yuehui, He Pidong and their accomplices were convicted of 19 types of crime, such as running a gang, murder, intentionally injuring others, robbery and extortion.

They have also been accused of illegal gun trade and possession and fighting in public and disorder, it said.

The gang, which was involved in 38 criminal cases, monopolized the road haulage business from Shijiazhuang to several nearby cities by means of violence and forcibly jacked up prices since February 2003.

"They severely disturbed public order and endangered people's safety," the court said.

Source: Xinhua

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