context: Anecdotal evidence suggests that petty crime is on the rise in China’s cities. But judging from the attention in state media, many local authorities seem more concerned with organised gangs, as well as with their links to officials.

Nine supervision teams, part of the central government’s crackdown on crime and local mafia, have inspected work on the ground in Shanxi, Liaoning, Fujian, Shandong, Henan, Hubei, Guangdong, Chongqing and Sichuan.

Wuhan’s public security organs have undergone internal reform to better deal with problems: having a single leader held accountable for investigations from start to finish, employing big data analysis to identify crime networks, as well as employing legal experts. Moreover, with the general elections for Party organisations at local level coming up this year, Wuhan’s Organisation Department issued a work plan that will rectify weak Party units and ensure those involved in crime are not chosen as candidates.

The teams identified emerging forms of crime that police and officials must take more seriously, including

  • extorting landlords and tenants through non-contractual use of property or refusing to refund deposits; one local company made 10 million in profits
  • violent debt collection and extortion: in Jiang’an district, five ‘consultancies’ reeled in customers through low interest rates then forced them to take out high-interest loans
  • capture of local authority: Liao Moumou 廖某某 Party branch secretary of the local fishing community manipulated elections and used ‘security teams’ to extort profits from local fishing and demolition projects; exceeding the jurisdiction of the district authorities, this case was transferred to the municipal procuratorate
  • 28 Party cadres investigated for criminal behaviour, including seven cases where they erected ‘protective umbrellas’ over criminal behaviour