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Recent figures published by China Public Security Bureau showing a fall in the incidence of violent crimes last year are highly suspicious and far removed from the realities of muggings, murders, and rapes suffered by the population in their everyday lives, RFA's Mandarin service reports.

Police figures released at a news conference Monday showed that the number of cases of bombings, poisonings, and arsons fell last year by 32.3 percent, 29.7 percent, and 24.5 percent respectively compared with the previous year. They also showed a drop in the numbers of rapes, murders, and robberies, by 9.6 percent, 7.2 percent, and 4.2 percent respectively from the previous year.

�They have to publish figures like this to reassure everybody, to maintain so-called social stability,� Gao Peiqi, former deputy chief of the criminal department of the Shenzhen PSB, told RFA. �As for the reality of the level of crimes committed, I think ordinary people have a pretty good idea. They only have to look at their immediate environment... I remember a report once about a street in Guangzhou where there had been a robbery every 100 meters.�

Gao said one characteristic of crime in China is that people don't report it. �If you report it to the local police, they are corrupt, they take money, wining and dining. Let's say you lose 10,000 yuan, if you were to take them out wining and dining you'd need to spend 20,000, so forget about reporting it.�

He said companies were also reluctant to report economic crimes, for fear of prompting indiscriminate arrests before investigations were complete. �This is a very very inaccurate figure," Gao told RFA correspondent Han Qing.

The PSB declined to disclose specific figures illustrating the actual number of crimes reported to police last year, however. Spokesman Sun Yongbo said the decrease marked an end to the rapid rise of crime in recent years and continuing progress in law and order.

Other observers disagreed. Ma Xiaoming, a former reporter with state television in the northern province of Shaanxi, told RFA that the evidence of his own eyes contradicted Sun's optimism. �Judging from my everyday life, in my immediate environment, in the streets and markets around where I live... I frequently see crimes, and these are just the crimes I see, people's mobile phones snatched, stolen bicycles, stolen motorbikes.�

�I am very suspicious about these figures,� Ma said.

China reported 4.39 million criminal cases in 2003, about the same as in 2002, according to the PSB, which said that police solved 2.34 million criminal cases last year, including 20,000 long-standing cases with the assistance of fingerprint authentication. It also said it had seized 3,999 stowaways and arrested 774 people traffickers last year.

China's police force is notoriously corrupt, with frequent complaints of beatings to death in police custody, bribe-taking, and harassment leveled at its officers. PSB departments are often also used as private armies by local government officials seeking to impose their will on citizens by force.

Last year the ministry issued a new police code of conduct called the �Five Prohibitions,� which forbids such behavior as gambling, drinking on duty, drunk driving, carrying guns off duty, and carrying guns while drunk.

Statistics show that 988 policemen had been investigated and prosecuted last year for breaking those prohibitions, among which 387 were fired, the PSB said. #####


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