More than 460 gangsters are on the run following a high-profile crackdown on organized crime in Chongqing that has already led to the detention of a judicial official and scores of police.
Police handcuff Yue Ning, a suspect allegedly involved in an organized crime group in Chongqing. City authorities are waging a campaign to crack down on criminal gangs. [Courtesy of Chongqing Municipal Public Security Bureau]
About 3,000 police have taken part in the operation since it was launched two months ago to dismantle criminal gangs that have long plagued the southwest China municipality.
Police so far have detained 1,544 suspected gangsters from 14 organized gangs and have warrants to formally arrest 67 alleged leaders.
"Chongqing will struggle to stay safe if we don't crack down on the organized gangs," Liu Guanglei, member of the standing committee of the city's Party Committee and team leader of the operation, said to the Chongqing Evening News.
Police are searching for 469 suspected gangsters.
Police have so far seized 48 guns and 877 bullets. Also, 1.53 billion yuan ($223 million) worth of assets have been confiscated or frozen.
Among those detained by police is Wen Qiang, director of the Chongqing Municipal Judicial Bureau, over accusations that he protected gangs.
Zhao Bo, spokesman for the municipality, said Wen's detention reflects that the "government is determined to fight gangs regardless of their political powers or financial strengths."
Meanwhile, Xinhua News Agency reported that scores of police officers also accused of protecting criminal gangs have been detained.
Gangs once ran an illegal loan business worth 30 billion yuan, equal to one third of the city's annual revenue, said Wang Lijun, Chongqing public security bureau chief.
On July 21, Li Qiang, a representative of the Chongqing Municipal People's Congress and the director of the Yuqiang Group, which focuses on real estate development and transportation, was detained for his illegal methods in grabbing control of Chongqing's public transportation market.
A source said that in the 30 minutes after Li was detained, his mobile phone received many text messages - many by insiders on the police force - urging him to flee.
Citizens have been helpful in disclosing crimes of the gangs, the newspaper report said. Among 9,165 reported tip-offs to police, 80 percent were made with real names, which helped the investigation.