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SMS crime comes under the scanner
By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-18 06:13

About 46,000 cases of illegal mobile-phone messages have been handled since early this month, when a nationwide crackdown was launched on this rapidly-growing phenomenon.

More than 5,000 illegal phone numbers were cancelled and 50 bank accounts frozen in two weeks, Wu Heping, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), told a press conference yesterday.

The campaign is jointly conducted by the MPS, the Ministry of Information Industry, and the China Banking Regulatory Commission.

Messages that dupe people into turning over personal or financial information, or involve prostitution, gambling, underground lotteries or offer criminal services are illegal.

"Illegal messages have greatly affected people's lives," Wu said, disclosing that 43 per cent of the cases involve financial fraud.

"It's a people's war, because all the cases were reported by the public."

Ministry figures show that the number of mobile phone users in China would surpass 400 million by the year's end, and that about 500 million messages are sent every day.

The campaign is an extension of a crackdown started last year by the MPS on pornographic and subversive content and spam sent by mobile phones or through the Internet.

Text messaging (SMS) is extremely popular among Chinese mobile phone users, and generates huge profits for phone companies.

Wu also said the number of serious criminal cases, such as murder, explosions, arson and rape, is decreasing nationwide. But cases involving adolescents and migrant workers are on the rise.

The spokesman also briefed the press on security arrangements for US President George W. Bush's visit to China which begins tomorrow.

"We've taken all-round measures to make sure that every corner that Bush goes is safe," he said.

The United States, in a notice posted on Sunday on its Beijing Embassy's website, said it had received "credible information that a terrorist threat may exist against official US Government facilities in Guangzhou," capital of South China's Guangdong Province.

"We are aware of the notice from the US side," Wu said, but he declined to elaborate.

"China is a safe place to live and travel," he said.

Hotels in Beijing have tightened security measures ahead of Bush's visit. Security directors of hotels graded above three stars gathered at Beijing Friendship Hotel on Wednesday to be briefed on how to handle terrorism or violent incidents.

A recent notice issued by the Bureau of Public Security urged all big hotels to improve their monitoring and control systems.

(China Daily 11/18/2005 page2)

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