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Crime and policing in China

Australian Institute of Criminology, Li Xiancui
07 November 1998

Li Xiancui

Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Public Security, Ministry of Public Security, People's Republic of China; and Visiting Scholar, Justice Studies, Queensland University of Technology


The contemporary history of China has seen the adoption of new economic and social policies to do with the switch to a market-based economy and the opening up of China to the outside world. Such policies have brought great changes in every sphere of work. Chinese police have not been insulated from the influences of such dramatic policy changes either. For instance, police functions and powers have seen the introduction of new amendments to the Criminal Law of China (hereafter CLC) and the Criminal Procedural Law of China (hereafter CPLC).

This presentation 1, therefore, will provide a general introduction to crime and policing in China with particular reference to the current legislative amendments that have impact on policing and crime in China. The presentation consists of three main sections.

The first main section focuses on the Chinese police system and encompasses the various types of police in China, the police structure and rank system, as well as police functions and police powers. The second main section deals with crime trends in China with a specific focus on property crime, drug-related crime, organised crime and economic crime (white-collar crime). The third main section looks at the range of policing strategies in China for combating various types of crimes, especially drug-related crimes.

Where possible, a matching up of the units and/or agencies in China with similar units/agencies in Australia has been undertaken to provide a comparative perspective and better understanding.

Chinese police system

The Chinese police system consists of 5 components. Namely, the public security police (similar to the police services in the States and Territories, and the Federal police in Australia), state security police (somewhat similar to the Australian Intelligence and Security Organization), the prison police (similar to the correctional services in Australia), judicial police in people's procuratorates and judicial police in the people's courts (no comparable ones for the latter two).

The latter four types of police account for only about 14% of the police force. The remaining 86% of the overall police force are the public security police (Li, 1997). All five component parts of the overall Chinese police force have the same police rank system, the same uniforms and the same police badges and symbols. But none of these five parts of the police force are subordinate to any other part. Each type of police force performs specifically designed functions and each has its own organizational structure. Historically, most of the police functions were performed by the one force, the public security police.

Around the 1980s, the contemporary situation, especially the influence of the economic reform policy, dictated the need for greater diversification and specialisation of some police functions. Hence, some functions of the public security police were transferred to other law enforcement agencies.

The Public Security Police

This is, as previously mentioned, the main police force in China (86%). The central agency of this police force is the Ministry of Public Security (hereafter MPS). The headquarters of the MPS is in Beijing. MPS is directly accountable to the State Council.

The State Security Police

This type of police was established in 1983. It has the responsibility to safeguard the state security, to prevent foreign espionage, sabotage and conspiracies. The state security police are under the leadership of the Ministry of State Security, which is also one of the government organs, directly accountable to the State Council.

Prison Police

This part is the correctional arm of the overall police system. Such police are stationed in prisons and correction units and are responsible for supervising convicted offenders who serve their sentences in prisons. However, the supervision of those who serve their sentences in communities falls to the Public Security Police. The Ministry of Justice in China has the function of administering the nation's prison system. Thus, prison police are under the leadership of the Ministry of Justice, another government organ under the State Council.

Judicial Police

This type of police in China does not appear to have an equivalent counterpart in the Australian police system. That is, while Australia has a judicial security system made up of trained court security officers, such officers are not regarded as part of the police service and do not have the same powers or uniforms as police officers.

In China, there are two types of judicial police. One is the judicial police attached to various levels of courts, who are responsible for maintaining the security and order in courts and serving instruments, some also executing death sentences. The other is the judicial police attached to various levels of procuratorates, who are responsible for escorting suspects in the cases filed and investigated by corresponding procuratorates (Lang,1995). Hence, these two types of police are unlike the other 3 types of police, in that they are not attached to a specific Ministry, which has direct access to the State Council.

Diagram 1: Diagram of the four police forces
Diagram of the four police forces

This paper focuses on the public security police in China, mainly its structure, functions, and powers.

The Characteristics of the Public Security Police

The structure of the public security police bears the characteristics of a combination of centralized and decentralized structure. That is, in terms of profession and operation, all the public security police fall under the leadership of MPS, but in terms of administration, they fall under the leadership of the corresponding governments.

The characteristics of the centralized leadership of the MPS are demonstrated as follows:

  1. Drafting regulations/rules for the public security police nationwide
  2. Guiding policing operation nationwide
  3. International communication

Decentralization is demonstrated in that 31 local public security bureaus or departments in the provincial, municipal and autonomous regional levels have discretion to decide the size of the police force needed in its jurisdiction and to determine their own priorities in policing according to their respective local situation. However, such discretionary power must be consistent with the instructions by the MPS.

Each of these local public security bureaus is liable for its own practices. The appointments and promotion of police officers is up to the local governments, but the local governments should consult the public security police services at the higher level for advice beforehand. Basically, the local government is responsible for providing the police force in its jurisdiction with its budget.

The Organization of MPS

At the top of the organizational hierarchy is the Ministry of Public Security. There are four levels of local public security police services under MPS (see Diagram 2). As stated previously, the local police services are under the dual leadership of the local governments and the police services above them. But the dispatched police stations are solely under the direct leadership of the police bureaus above.

Besides the regular public security police, there are still other four forms of police under MPS. They are the railway police, transportation police, civil aviation police and forestry police. Each of these sub-sections of the police is responsible for the law enforcement in their respective field. These police are subject to the dual leadership of their superior functional ministries and the MPS, respectively. For instance, the railway police are under the dual leadership of the Ministry of Railway Transportation and MPS. They are obliged to enforce the regulations and provisions by the MPS and also report their work to and seek assistance from MPS.

Diagram 2: The Structure of MPS
The Structure of MPS

Another police force in China that needs to be mentioned is the armed police. It was established in 1983. The duties of armed police include patrolling borders, maintaining security and order in border areas, guarding VIPs and foreign embassies and consulates stationed in China and important institutions, buildings and facilities as well. The force is under the joint command of the MPS and the Central Military Committee.

Within the MPS, there is another new form of police, the patrol police. Their main function is patrolling the streets, to deter and where possible catch offenders at the scenes of crime. They also deal with minor offences, participate in safeguarding major events, render first aid in large-scale catastrophes and natural disasters. As well as helping victims of various offences, providing help to anyone who needs it on the street like giving directions to tourists, helping children and aged persons who may have lost their way home and so forth.

The Police Rank System

The police rank system was adopted in China in 1992 according to the People's Police Ranking Regulations 1992. There are 5 grades with 12 levels of ranks altogether in the Chinese police. They are as follows:

  1. General Commissioner 2 (awarded to individuals who hold the posts as ministers of MPS or Ministry of State Security);
  2. Deputy General Commissioner (awarded to those who hold the posts as deputy ministers in the ministries previously mentioned, and the rest may be on the analogy of the posts to the ranks);
  3. Commissioner (of first, second, third grade);
  4. Superintendent (of first, second, third grade);
  5. Sergeant (of first, second, third grade);
  6. Constable (of first, second grade).

Police Functions

Functions of police in China cover a wider range than those of any police in the world. All the functions are performed by specific types of police officers trained and assigned to their respective fields. The functions stipulated in the Police Law 1995 are as follows:

  1. preventing, stopping and investigating criminal offences;
  2. maintaining social order and preventing activities that jeopardise it;
  3. keeping traffic safety and order and dealing with traffic accidents;
  4. organising and implementing fire prevention, and supervision;
  5. controlling firearms, ammunition, controlled knives and flammable explosive and radio-active materials;
  6. supervising and administrating the operation of certain types of occupations (as industry of engraving seals, entertaining industries as various clubs) and industries stipulated by laws or regulations;
  7. guarding personnel stipulated by the State, the important institutions and facilities;
  8. controlling mass rallies, parades and demonstrations;
  9. administering the household registration; conferring or revoking nationality; handling matters in regard to entry and exit of the country, stay and travel of aliens in the Chinese territory;
  10. Keeping the order and security in the border areas;
  11. executing the penalties to the offenders sentenced to control, criminal detention, deprivation of political rights and offenders who serve their sentences outside of prisons; supervising offenders serving suspended sentences and offenders on parole;
  12. monitoring and administering the security and protection in the computer information network;
  13. guiding and monitoring the security work in state organs, social organisations and enterprises, in addition to the order and security in major construction project sites; guiding the Neighbourhood Security Committee (NSC) and other mass-line units in maintaining social order and crime prevention;
  14. performing other duties prescribed by law and regulations.

Within the headquarters of MPS, there are about 20 3 bureaus or departments under the direct leadership of MPS. Each of them is responsible for administering or coordinating a specific police function nationwide. Police bureaus or departments at the provincial, prefectural and the county levels have the similar divisions or sections in charge of specific duties.

The Bureaus and Departments within the Headquarters

  • The General Office,
  • Zhengzhibu or Personnel Department,
  • Bureau of Public Order Control,
  • Bureau of Policing Economic Institutions,
  • Bureau of Policing Cultural Institutions,
  • Bureau of Household Administration,
  • Bureau of Control of Entry and Exit,
  • Bureau of Border Control and Frontiers Inspection
  • Bureau of Criminal Investigation (similar to CID in the west),
  • Bureau of Fire Prevention and Control,
  • Bureau of Border Control and Frontiers Inspection,
  • Bureau of VIP Security,
  • Bureau of International Cooperation,
  • Bureau of Traffic Control,
  • Bureau of Computer Management and Supervision;
  • Department of Internal Supervision,
  • Department of Legal Studies,
  • Department of Science and Technology, and
  • Department of Budget and Accounting.

Furthermore, there are several research institutes directly under the leadership of MPS with nearly 3,000 research and scientific staff.

One is the Police Science and Technology Research Institute and Information Center, which not only provides the latest information on police exhibition and symposia worldwide, but also carries out research on police equipment, information management, communications, as well as the technical prevention of crimes.

Another Research Institute is the Forensic Science and Police Science Literature Retrieval Center. This Institute provides expert testimonies, and has the ability to undertake comprehensive analyses and comparisons through its computer services for establishing a scientific basis for development of research projects.

The Traffic Control Research Institute, mainly conducts research on traffic control.

The final Research Institute is the Institute of Public Security (hereafter IPS), the only one in the MPS engaged in research on social science. Specifically in the area of studies of basic and applied theories about policing. The main tasks of IPS are as follows:

  • to evaluate the practical experiences in policing in China
  • to study new issues in social order arising under the conditions of reform and opening-up to the outside world and market-oriented economy
  • to introduce advanced and successful experiences and practices by the police forces in foreign countries
  • to offer consultation and reference proposals to the police authority and policymaking departments concerned.

Police publications by this these institutes relating to scientific research and social science research include: Police Technology, Forensic Science, China Crime Prevention Products Information, and Public Security Studies etc.

In addition, there are still some research institutes under the command of the bureaus or departments in the provinces, autonomous regions and direct municipalities, also engaged in various researches on policing, but most within their regions.

Police Powers

The powers of the Chinese police are contained in the Police Law 1995 and the 'The Criminal Procedural Law of China'. The latter one was adopted by the Second Session of the Fifth National People's Congress on 1 July 1979 and enacted on 1 January 1980. Since that time various amendments to the Criminal Procedural Law of China have been made. The latest amendment was made by the Fourth Session of Eighth National People's Congress on 17 March 1996, and went into effect in January 1997. Some of these amendments deal with empowering the police with specific authority to arrest, detain and interrogate suspects.

Police Powers:

  1. to arrest,
  2. to detain,
  3. to interrogate suspects
  4. to impose administratively coercive and punitive measures to those individuals or organisations who breach the Regulations Governing Offences against Public Order in People's Republic of China (RGOPO).

In any of the following circumstances the police may first detain an active criminal or a major suspect, if:

  1. he is in the process of preparing to commit a crime, is committing a crime or is discovered immediately after committing a crime;
  2. he is identified as having committed a crime by the victim or by an eyewitness on the scene;
  3. he is discovered to have criminal evidence on his person or at his dwelling;
  4. after committing the crime, he attempts to commit suicide or to escape or is a fugitive;
  5. he may possibly destroy or falsify evidence or collude with others to devise a consistent story;
  6. he doesn't reveal his true name and address, and his identity is unclear;
  7. he is strongly suspected of committing crimes, going from one place to another, committing multiple crimes or as a member of a criminal gang.

Moreover, the Police Law 1995 empowers the police some priority in case of emergency while carrying out their duties, as using public transportation, going through the traffic when there is heavy traffic, etc. after identifying themselves.

The Criminal Law stipulates which offences are defined as crimes that deserve criminal sanctions and which are defined as minor offences that are dealt with according to the prescriptions in the Regulation Governing Offences against Public Order of People's Republic of China (RGOPO). There are three categories of punishments to minor offences. They are warning, fine and administrative detention.

Administrative detention is the most severe of the three types of punishments for minor offences. Administrative detention involves depriving offenders of their freedom for not less than one but not more than 15 days.

Crime Trends in China

This section will focus on the current crime trends in China with particular emphasis on property crime, drug-related crime, organised crime and economic crime.

The Current Big Picture

According to an internal Police Report on 'Policing in China: 1995' (similar to the Annual Reports of various State Police Services in Australia), criminal cases recorded by the police were 1.69 million, (of which 1.35 million were cleared), 2.96 million minor offences were dealt with by the police in 1995.

Crime Statistics in China in 1995:

  • Criminal offences recorded 1.69 million,
  • 1.35 million cleared,
  • Minor offences 2.96 million
  • Theft of Various Types 1.13 million

As mentioned in the previous section, in the Criminal Law, there are two categories of offences. One category defines serious offences as 'criminal' and hence such crimes attract a range of criminal penalties. The other category defines less serious crimes as 'minor' offences, and they attract various administrative penalties. There are specific criteria to decide if an offence is regarded as a 'criminal' one or 'minor' one. For instance, in a case of property crime like a theft, if the value of the property is over a certain amount of money, say 200 yuan, it is a criminal case, Otherwise, the theft will be regarded as a minor case.

It is also clear the majority of crime in China is profit-driven. For example, crimes such as drug trafficking, abduction of women and children, gang crimes (or organised crime), bank robberies, various thefts, corruption, smuggling, vice crimes and crimes under the umbrella of economic crimes, which are termed 'white-collar crime' in western countries, are all crimes that have a substantial money motive involved.

Property Crime

The 'Policing in China: 1995' Report stated that 'thefts' of various properties was top of the list for offences. This type of crime encompasses auto-thefts, thefts and sabotage of agricultural and water conservancy facilities, industrial materials, oil-field supplies, power supplies and communication equipments. There were 1.13 million filed crimes of this type in 1995.

Drug-related Crimes

It is well known that China suffered greatly from drug addiction in its modern history. But drug addiction, manufacturing and trafficking were almost completely eradicated only a few years after the foundation of new China in 1949 because of a strong attack on drug-related problems initiated under the leadership of the Communist Party and the Government with the active support and participation of the whole community (Ye, 1997).

Unfortunately, since the late 1970s, drugs re-emerged like a ghost in China and spread nationwide gradually. The reason for the rampant use of drugs in China is partly the influence of the decade long history of drug use and the weakening regulation and the control mechanisms in China. Also, the influential nature of the international trafficking market, and the rapid modernisation of the Chinese economy, with its strong emphasis and promotion of the idea that it is 'good to be rich'. In such an environment, some people are tempted to 'get rich quick' by whatever means are available even if this involves the criminal behaviour of dealing in drugs.

The situation of drug-related crimes has become increasingly serious in China. Crimes such as theft, robbery, and prostitution are often related to drug use and are on the increase. In 1995, drug-related crime cases cleared by police were 57,000. 2,376 kilos of heroin, 1,110 kilos of opium, 466 kilos of marijuana together with 1,304 kg of ice and 859 tons of drug chemicals were seized (Policing in China 1995).

Drug-related crimes in 1995:

  • Drug-related cases cleared 57,000
  • 2,376 kilos of heroin seized
  • 1,110 kilos of opium seized
  • 466 kilos of marijuana seized
  • 1,304 kg of ice seized
  • 859 tons of drug chemicals seized

The money to be made from drug dealing is staggering for the average Chinese person. For example, Ma Yonghua, the ring leader in the serious Yunnan " 89.11" 4 drug trafficking case, which was one of the top ten drug trafficking cases in the world, possessed up to 20 million yuan 5 of drug proceeds in Gansu Province.

With this sort of money flooding into the Chinese economy, it is little wonder that the Government is taking drug crimes very seriously. Peoples' health is substantially endangered, the social order and the normal production in agriculture and industry in China is significantly disrupted and under threat.

Drug Use Among The Young

An area of major concern for the government is the widespread use of drugs among the youth in China. For example, various media reports highlight the serious nature of the drug problem in Chinese youth.

According to the journalist, Wang Yanbin, young students, not only University or Tertiary students but middle school students, even some primary school pupils, have been found taking drugs in some regions in China in recent years (Wang, 1998).

In late June 1997, the security staff in Yunnan Art College detected and dealt with 5 students who took or injected heroin on the University campus. They were aged 18-25 and began abusing drugs before they entered college. Two of them introduced other students to drugs (Wang,1998).

In a Peide village, in Jianshui Yunnan Province, a few drug traffickers sold their drug by mouthful for 50 cents. This low price was intended to entice children aged 12-13 to take drugs in order to increase the drug dealers' consumer market. There were about 40 youth aged around 13 abusing drugs in that village last year (Wang,1998).

Organised Crime In Mainland China

Organised crime in China is probably better understood and termed as "gang crime" because the characteristics and the structure or Organization of the crime differs significantly from the definition of organised crime groups in the US, Italy, Japan, and even Hong Kong. However, this type of crime does bear some of the characteristics of organised crime to varying degrees.

According to Zhao, Ren and Wang (1997), organised crime in mainland China may be characterised in one phrase: "crime perpetrated by highly involved local evil forces". They may be localised to a town or village, a district or a city, within a region or along a traffic line.

As is the case in most countries, gang crimes increase or decrease with the growth and decline of social factors in their favour. The present socio- economic conditions in mainland China make it attractive for organised gangs to operate. Clear and decisive strategies need to be taken to combat the rapid growth of such gang crimes.

Chinese Police statistics and other sources indicate that gangs are still involved in a considerable number of conventional crimes, are made up of hardened criminals, and are seeking to 'internationalise' their operations. These points are expanded on below.

  • 40 of the 55 criminal groups identified (72.7%) are still engaged in conventional-type crimes like robbery, burglary, murder, rape, and human trafficking or extortion. Nine of them (16.3%) are involved in prostitution, gambling, drug abuse. Six (11%) specialise in smuggling and drug trafficking.
  • Most ringleaders of criminal groups have been legally punished at least once. They have a long history of extensive criminal experiences and are good at dodging legal punishment. They are highly anti-socially minded. They organise themselves into syndicates to commit crimes. Some of them move from the open to underground and some infiltrate into the financial field under legal identity, as in the construction industry, stock transaction, various trades. In a word, the major modus operandi of the gang crimes in the future may be the exchange of power and money, or extortion often accompanied with brutal violence.
  • Organised crime in mainland China is still in its primary stage and has not developed into the magnitude as that of the Triad in Hong Kong or Macau, or the criminal syndicates in the West. With the infiltration of the latter, however, similar criminal organisations are taking shape along the southeast coastal areas and border provinces. International drug trafficking and smuggling syndicates are joining hands with criminal groups in inland China which have aroused the attention of the authority and law enforcement agencies (Zhao et al, 1997).

Economic Crime

In the West this type of crime is commonly referred to as 'white-collar' crime or 'fraud-type' crimes. In China the term 'economic crime' is used to convey a similar range of crimes such as fraud by bogus cheques, deceptive contracts, taxation fraud, computer-related fraud, fake trademark, fake medicine, fake food and likewise, raise funds by illegal means and so on.

As the market-oriented economy took hold in China, the last few years have seen defrauders racking their brains to find loopholes in the legislation on economic development and to exploit the imperfections in the market administration.

According to "Policing in China:1995', there were 64,000 frauds filed for investigation in 1995. In the same year, 564 cases of various fraud were detected and cleared through the targeted operation in late 1995 in Heilongjiang Province alone, which resulted in the recovery of 420 million yuan RMB. To illustrate the general picture and seriousness of economic crimes in China the following cases reflect just the tip of the iceberg: The fake spirit case early in 1998, during the Spring Festival which involved the death of 27 individuals and significant injury to many more (Xu Lijing, 1998); the medicine kickbacks case as the No.1 case about medical companies bribing hospital staff that involved 170,000 yuan (RMB)(Han Lewu, 1998); the case of infringement of commercial secrets which resulted in a company reduction in sale about 10 million yuan (RMB) within a month (Li & Du, 1998); a misappropriation case involving a offender getting 3 million yuan (RMB)(Ye Xiaolin,1997); the case of counterfeiting credit cards which involved offenders getting 10 million yuan (RMB)(Zhang Jian, 1996).

Economic crime in 1995:

  • 64,000 frauds filed for investigation nationwide;
  • In Heilongjiang Province alone, 564 cases of various fraud detected and cleared, Recovery of 420 million yuan RMB in the 564 cases (Policing in China).

Other serious crimes such as smuggling, abduction of women and children, prostitution, bank robbery also involved millions of yuan (RMB). In 1995, police cleared 1,096 cases of smuggling, of which 200 involved more than 1 million yuan (RMB). The border and frontier police alone detected and seized 389 boats smuggling 230 packages of cigarettes, 685 vehicles, 29,140 electric appliances, 34.78 million yuan of counterfeit RMB, productive and raw materials etc., in a total of 600 million yuan (RMB)(Policing in China 1995). In 1998, smuggling of oil was detected because of the shortage and increase value of oil worldwide.

Smuggling in 1995:

  • Cleared 1,096 cases of smuggling,
  • 200 involved more than 1 million yuan RMB.
  • Detected and seized 389 boats smuggling:
    • 230 packages of cigarettes,
    • 685 vehicles,
    • 29,140 electric appliances,
    • 34.78 million yuan of counterfeit RMB,
    • Productive and raw materials
    • Total of 600 million yuan RMB (Policing in China 1995).

    Policing in China

    In the previous section, it is clearly evident that China is facing a major upsurge in property crimes and drug-related crime. Hence, in this section the focus is primarily directed to how the Chinese government and its constituent organs are attempting to combat the growing drug problem within Chinese society.

    Policing Drug Problems

    The National Anti-drug Commission (NAC) was established in November 1990 with the approval of the State Council, consisting of members from 16 Ministries such as the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Health and the General Customs Office and so forth (Ye et al, 1997).

    The standing office is located in the headquarters of MPS. NAC is responsible for guiding the anti-drug practices nationwide. In June 1991, a national anti-drug conference was hosted by NAC. The strategy of "employing three anti's or prohibitions (anti-trafficking, anti-abusing and anti-planting) simultaneously, blocking up the sources and cutting off the transportation of drugs, enforcing relevant legislation rigorously and tackling the problem on the surface as well as at the root" was put forward at the conference. A three pronged approach was planned that revolves around a social strategy, a legislation strategy and a correction strategy (Ye et al, 1997). Each of these three strategies is examined below.

    Social Strategy against Drugs

    The experience of the successful crackdown on drug problems in the early stages of the foundation of new China in 1949 provides a model for this type of strategy. However, this strategy is very much dependent on the massive participation and close coordination of the community to reinforce the publicity of the anti-drug campaign. This type of mass education is already part of the school curriculum, in that the history of the Chinese people suffering from drug abuse in the past is conducted in every primary and middle school all over China. The object is to make the students aware of the great harm and impact that drugs had on the nation and the nationality, praising highly those good deeds of the patriotic fellow-countrymen in their fight against drugs in history. Along with this existing educational program more relevant knowledge about the harmful effects of drugs and the relevant legislation and regulations on drugs are publicised. Finally, the anti-drug educational campaign also focuses on enriching the spiritual and cultural life of the community as a way of reducing peoples' need for dependency on a drug lifestyle.

    From May to July 1998, the MPS organised a National Exhibition on Drugs in Beijing. The thesis of the exhibition is "Yes to Life. No to Drugs". In the preface of the exhibition, there are the following sentences:

    • China is no longer a piece of Pure Land;
    • China is once again suffering from drugs;
    • China is now carrying out a national war against drugs.

    The exhibition began on 29 May. On the second day, foreign embassies and consulates stationed in Beijing went to visit it. Various staff from all fields, not only students from primary, middle schools and universities, but also drug addicts who were being treated in drug houses or other treatment agencies were organised to visit the exhibition. Statistics, facts, vivid pictures and even some real opium poppies are on show to illustrate the harmfulness of drugs and motivate the whole nation to fight against drugs.

    Legislation Strategy on Drug Control

    China regards having a strong legislative response to drugs as a very important building block in the establishment of a comprehensive drug control strategy. Again, the recent history in the foundation of new China and its success with almost eradicating drug use provides firm evidence for this type of legislative strategy.

    Such a tough approach can be seen in the passage of Decision on Drug- abuse by the 17th Session of the Standing Committee of the 7th National People's Congress on Dec. 28, 1990; the amendments to the Criminal Law of China in 1997 which stipulates the specific offences for drug-related crimes and their associated punishments. The maximum penalty for serious cases is a fixed term imprisonment for 15 years, or life long imprisonment or death, and in addition, the confiscation of property. The minimum penalty is a fixed term of imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or criminal detention, or control, and in addition to a fine of a specified amount.

    Moreover, there are other regulations on controlling narcotic drugs and stimulants, such as the Methods on Controlling Narcotic Drugs issued on 28 November 1987; the Methods on Controlling Stimulants issued on 27 December 1987 and the Coercive Measures on Stopping Drug Abuse issued on 12 January 1995. These three regulations were issued by the State Council.

    In addition, there are also some legislation or regulations passed by the local people's congress to be enacted in their own regions as Yunnan, Guangxi and Guizhou Provinces and Autonomous Regions. For example, Yunan Anti- drugs Regulation was passed by the Provincial People's Congress in 1991. Prefectures and cities like Gehong, Dali and Baoshan which had experienced serious transit drug problems also issued regulations on drugs in their respective regions. Also, local legislation was passed in Sichuan Province on issuing licences for the transportation of certain chemical substances. Control of narcotic drugs was enhanced through this type of legislation and regulations that have been passed and issued at various levels and by different agencies. Such action has played a role in cutting off the illegal drugs to some areas.

    In parallel with these legislation changes, there has also been a strong emphasis on enforcement throughout China. For example, in 1982 an Anti- drug Guiding Group was set up in Yunan Province. A Task Force targeted drugs was formed with over 1300 members. After the National Anti-drugs Conference in 1991, anti-drug task forces were set up in the targeted provinces and regions which suffered from serious drug problems. Seminars and discussion groups on anti-drug strategies and training professionals were held to improve the capability of the anti-drug personnel. Budgets were increased specifically for anti-drug operations and new equipment was added as well like mobile drug test units and advanced analysing tools and so forth.

    During the period of 1991 to 1994, drug cases adjudicated and closed by the courts nationwide increased 21% annually.

    Correction Strategy for Drug Offences

    The correction strategy mainly consists of two aspects. The first aspect is to educate and reform through labour drug users who have been convicted of criminal offences. This group of convicted felons include those who are sentenced to a death penalty but with a suspension of execution for two years; those for life long imprisonment; and those of fixed-term imprisonment serving their sentences in prisons. The second aspect is to rehabilitate non- criminal drug users. That is, drug addicts who have not been convicted of a criminal offence but who nonetheless require treatment in education and rehabilitation through labour units or in special drug houses.

    The Decision on Anti-Drugs passed by the National People's Congress stipulates that, those who have been addicted to use or injection of drugs must be compelled to give up abusing, and provided with sufficient treatments and education. Those who had given up abusing but taken it again later on can be sent to the education and rehabilitation through labour units, as a way of forcing them to deal with their drug addiction. The time limitation for this coercive type of strategy for drug abuse is 3 months to 6 months.

    Up to the end of 1994, the registered addicts were 0.38 million all over the country. There were 251 drug houses, in which about 50,000 addicts were compelled to give up drug abuse. There were 75 drug houses run by the judicial organs, in which up to 30,000 addicts were treated by the end of 1994 6.

    Strategies on Drug Crime

    1. Social strategies
      1. Publicity of harm and impact of drugs;
      2. Publicity of the nature and knowledge of drugs;
      3. Publicity of the legislation and regulations on drugs;
      4. Enriching their spiritual and cultural life.
      5. Legislative Strategies
        • Criminal Law of China 1997
        • Decision on Anti-Drugs 1990
        • Methods on Controlling Narcotic Drugs Nov. 1987
        • Methods on Controlling Stimulants 1987
        • Coercive Measures on Stopping Drug Abuse Jan. 1995
        • Local legislation or regulations
        • Correction Strategies
          1. To educate and reform through labour criminal offenders;
          2. To rehabilitate non-criminal drug users in:
            1. education and rehabilitation through labour units;
            2. special drug houses.

            Penalties for Drug Criminals

            • The maximum penalty
              1. fixed term imprisonment for 15 years
              2. life long imprisonment
              3. Death; in addition, the confiscation of property
              4. The minimum penalty
                1. Fixed term imprisonment not more than 2 years
                2. Criminal detention
                3. Control; in addition to a fine of a specified amount.

                Organised or Gang Crime

                This type of crime is dealt with by the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in various police services. There is no specific police or agency like the Crime Commission in Queensland or the National Crime Authority in Australia to specifically target organised crime. As soon as a gang crime is reported to the police, the CID at the relevant level begin their investigation with the help of other police if necessary.

                Economic Crimes

                As was noted previously, these types of crimes are comparatively new to the Chinese police. The former Bureau of Policing Economic Institutions of the MPS which is primarily responsible for the financial security of various enterprises and institutions and its counterparts at the lower levels, are now also engaged in the investigation of economic crimes of various types.

                Police services at the provincial level develop their own provisions to meet the needs of their situation. New undergraduates and postgraduates, whose majors are financial, business, computer, and accounting, are recruited and employed in the relevant bureaus, divisions or sections to enhance and improve their work competence and efficiency.


                Great changes and reforms are taking place in every sphere in China, including policing, especially after the Ninth National People's Congress held in March 1998. Ministries, bureaus and committees under the State Council were reduced to 29 from more than 40. Some were amalgamated with others, some were rescinded to meet the needs of reform. It is said such reforms are being undertaken in MPS, too. It cannot be denied that there are still problems and issues in the police structure, functions and powers in China. However, it is equally true to say that the Chinese police have tried and still are trying their best to reform in order to perform their functions effectively and efficiently though there are still a lot to be improved and done.


                Han Lewu(1998), "Female-pharmacist Got Secret Commissions of A$ 30,000" Press Digest Biweekly, Feb. 5, No.1515-3, Beijing, Guangming Daily Office.

                Lang Sheng (1995) ed. An Practical Interpretation on "Police Law of China 1995", China Democracy and Legal Publishing House, Beijing.

                Li Zhongxin (1997), "General Introduction of Chinese Police", Speech delivered at a Round-table Seminar during the 19th International Senior Policing Professionalization Conference 1997 Beijing.

                Lin Wei & Duli(1998), "From Computer Prodigy to Network Mole" China Youth Daily, Jan. 23, Beijing, China Youth Daily Office.

                Ministry of public Security P.R. China (1995), Policing in China 1995, Beijing.

                National People's Congress of China, "The Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China" (Adopted by the Second Session of he Fifth National People's Congress, July 1, 1979 and Effective as of January I, 1980, Amended by the Fifth Session of the Eighth National People's Congress, March, 1997 and Enacted in October, 1997.

                National People's Congress of China, " The Criminal Procedural Law of the People's Republic of China",(Adopted by the Second Session of the Fifth National People's Congress, July 1, 1979 and Effective as of January 1, 1980, Amended by according to the Decision of the Fourth Session of the Eighth People's Congress of China on March 17, 1996, Which is about the Amendment of the Criminal Procedural Law of the People's Republic of China.

                Wang Yanbin (1998), "Drugs are Gobbling up the Chinese Youth", Chinese Youth Monthly, NO.3, 1998.

                Xu lijing (1998), "An Individual Case is Challenging the Whole Reputation", Economic Daily Feb. 23, Beijing, Economic Daily Office.

                Ye Feng (1997) ed. "A Practical Handbook on Comprehensive Management of Social and Public Order", The Chinese People's University of Public Security Publishing House, Beijing.

                Ye Xiaolin (1998), "Enforce Management and Prevent from Future Crime", Press Digest Biweekly, Feb.8 , No.1516-3, Beijing, Guangming Daily Office.

                Yu Jiaqing, "The Case of Woman-Pharmacist Acceptance of Bribery" Press Digest Biweekly, Feb.5, No. 1515-3, Beijing, Guangming Daily Office.

                Zhang Jian (1996), "Think about the Legislation on Credit-Card-Related Crimes in China", Paper presented at the National Conference on Economic Crimes in Shanghai in 1996.

                Zhao, K, Ren, E.& Wang, Z (1997), "Organized Crime - New Trend",(unpublished).


                1. Disclaimer: It needs to be stated that all the information in this presentation is the writer's own knowledge, understanding, interpretation and translation of the materials at hand, not authorised by anybody or any agencies.

                2. It needs to be stated that the ranks have been translated into different terms in English. The original English version of the police ranks are: 1. General Commissioner, Deputy General Commissioner; 2. Commissioner (first, second, third class); 3. Inspector ( first, second, third class); 4. Superintendent ( first, second, third class); 5.Constable (first, second, class). There are still some other version as 1. General Superintendent, Deputy General Superintendent; 2. Superintendent (first, second, third grade); 3. Inspector (first, second, third grade); 4. Sergeant (first, second, third grade); 5. Officer ( first, second grade). The writer prefers the terms adopted in the paper, because they are the terms most commonly used.

                3. The information is up to August 1998. It is said that reform of structure is being carried out in MPS, but no official statistics are available to date.

                4. The case was brought to the realisation of the public in November 1989.

                5. About 5 yuan is equal to 1 Australian dollar.

                6. The source was from The Legal Daily, June 22,1995.