By Wang Huazhong and Ma Wei
CHONGQING: At least six police chiefs of district-level bureaus in this southwestern municipality have been detained for serving as "protective umbrellas" for local gangs, insiders said yesterday as a crackdown against mafia-style crime continues.
During the campaign, which started about two months ago, 1,544 suspects, mainly gangsters and business people, were detained by Aug 15, and the local government vowed to "uproot every protective umbrella for gangs".
The "protective umbrella", according to local police insiders, refers to corrupt officials or black sheep from the judicial system, including Wen Qiang, the once high-profile director of the Chongqing Municipal Judicial Bureau.
Wen was detained earlier this month over accusations that he protected gangs.
"As far as I know, 30 or 40 police officers have been detained for involvement in, or protection of, gangs," a senior officer with a district-level police bureau in the municipality told China Daily yesterday. The officer would not be named for safety reasons.
"At least six directors or deputy directors of district-level bureaus were detained," the officer said.
He said three of the six officers were detained a few minutes before the opening of a meeting organized by the municipal police bureau about the crackdown last week.
The wife of the deputy director of Yubei district police bureau reportedly committed suicide after her husband was detained for alleged involvement in a local gang that had monopolized the local pork market, the officer said.
The local newspaper, Chongqing Economic Times, reported on Wednesday that Wang Tianlun, a former member of the local Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee and general manager of Jinpu Food, a company with 1,000 employees and integrated swine slaughtering and pork distribution lines, was detained for allegedly using gangs to acquire 41 percent of the market.
Neither the city police bureau nor the related district bureaus would confirm for China Daily whether the police chiefs had been detained or how many there were.
The latest issue of China Newsweek, released yesterday, quoted sources close to local police authorities as saying 502 officers from local police bureaus, procuratorates and courts had been investigated in the crackdown by the end of last month.
An announcement published on the website of the municipality's human resources and social securities bureau on Aug 4 also said Chongqing is recruiting 591 officers this year to work for local police bureaus, procuratorates and courts, a move interpreted by the local media as the judicial system needing "fresh blood".
A policewoman, from the Shapingba district, who asked not to be named said she had never thought the campaign could go so far.
"In the beginning, I thought the operation was only a public gesture. But it now has turned into powerful hurricanes sweeping all dirt," she said.
The policewoman said she was shocked at the detention of former police chief Wen. She said as far as she knows, Wen had for years protected an entertainment venue that was also a place for underground drug trafficking and prostitution.
"Those bad guys should have been kicked out of the system earlier," she said, adding, though, that she was optimistic. "I believe police morality can be rallied after the crackdown."
Residents said they believed the government was sincere in its efforts.
"Police are taking the issue really seriously. They're trying to uproot gangsters together with related corrupt officials," said 34-year-old businessman Huang Jun.
Gang-related crime is by no means an isolated problem: More than 14,000 suspects were involved in gang crimes across the country during the past three years, China Central Television reported on Wednesday.