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Nations to fight cross-border crimes together
By Shao Zongwei (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-09 00:23

Senior Chinese prosecutors Thursday called for better links between legal organs in China and countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to crack down on cross-border organized crime.

"The Chinese prosecutors will work with their counterparts in ASEAN countries... to establish an effective law enforcement network to fight transnational organized crime," said Jia Chunwang, procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate during the China-ASEAN Prosecutors-General Conference which started yesterday in the capital of Southwest China's Yunnan Province.

Jia stressed the importance of sharing law enforcement information, and set up exchanges and mutual training to contribute to a safer environment in the region.

While regular meetings of prosecutors-general provide venues for discussion, direct co-operation of procuratorates in the border regions will smooth out the channels for contact, said Deputy Procurator-General Zhang Geng.

In addition, China and the ASEAN members should actively assist each other in areas like investigation and evidence collection, arrest and extradition of criminals, and pursuit and return of funds and property, he said.

Zhang proposed that a network for information collection, access, exchange and transmission be set up for safe and convenient data sharing.

Zhang's proposals were well-received by participants who highlighted the need for enhanced co-operation that goes beyond the existing bilateral framework and United Nations conventions.

Thai Attorney-General Rawat Chamchalerm said a regional legal framework such as uniform mutual legal assistance treaty could be more helpful.

The idea is not new. Attorneys-general of ASEAN countries discussed a draft of a treaty on multilateral mutual legal assistance and extradition in May.

Malaysian Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said the treaty might be extended to include non-ASEAN members in the region, such as China.

In November, 2002, China and ASEAN signed a joint declaration on tackling non-traditional security issues, in which both highlighted drug-trafficking, human smuggling, piracy on sea, terrorism, weapons smuggling, money laundering, international economic crime and Internet crimes as priority targets.

A memorandum of understanding signed in January this year gave new momentum to the partnership.

Despite the progress, Zhang said there still remains much to be improved in the co-operation.

He cited inadequate information sharing and a lack of operating codes in investigation and evidence collection, extradition of escaped criminals, and pursuit and return of the illegal gains.

Apart from transnational crime, the region is also faced with the task of curbing terrorism, separatism and extremism.

The deadly explosions in Bali, Indonesia in 2002 showed that the dangers are real.

The pressure may get worse as the 2010 deadline approaches for China and ASEAN to set up a free trade zone.

Some observers worry that the increasing business transaction and more convenient flow of goods may also bring about an upsurge of transnational crime.

Alert to the danger, China has repeatedly stressed the importance of joint work with its neighbours to fight cross-border crime.

In a letter to the conference, President Hu Jintao highlighted joint efforts in curbing transnational organized crimes as "a common task" of the countries within the region.

"China stands ready to work with ASEAN countries to... combat cross-border crime and build an enduring and stable regional security environment," said Luo Gan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, at the conference's opening session.

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