BEIJING (AP) — China's top law enforcement officials promised redoubled efforts Tuesday to crush terrorists, ethnic separatists, Falun Gong activists and others who they said threaten national security and economic progress.
The country's chief judge and prosecutor, addressing lawmakers at a meeting of the rubber-stamp legislature in Beijing, called for more action against corruption and organized crime. They warned that the Chinese public is dissatisfied with the work of police and the courts.
"We should vigorously fight separatists, terrorists and evil cult organizers for the sake of national security," said Han Zhubin, the country's top prosecutor.
The key duty for the National People's Congress this year is to name a successor to President Jiang Zemin. But the largely ceremonial event also allows Chinese leaders to trumpet their achievements, hear firsthand about local problems and lay out priorities for local officials.
Han said that police have arrested 3,402 people suspected of crimes against the state in the past five years. He said 3,550 were prosecuted for such offenses, which included murders, bombings and arson. In the past, crimes against the state in China have included nonviolent political dissent.
Han said the figure also included suspected members of Falun Gong, which was banned in 1999 as an "evil cult" accused of threatening Communist Party rule. Activists abroad accuse China of misusing such security claims to suppress nonviolent dissent.
"We can see from this morning's report that only a small percentage of crimes are related to political issues and they are not on a big scale," said Priscilla Lau, a delegate and a professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "So it's not a big problem, and it won't cause much influence on the development of our country."
China has leveled terrorism accusations against activists agitating for greater autonomy in Tibet, the country's Muslim northwest and elsewhere. Communist officials contend the teachings of Falun Gong and other banned spiritual groups jeopardize social stability.
China's leaders have long decried rising violent crimes, economic crimes and corruption as threats to stability in this fast-changing society.
"Every country has a problem with corruption. It's something the common people are concerned about," said Peng Zengqiu, a teacher and delegate from Shanghai.
Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People's Court, said that courts convicted 89,896 people of economic crimes in the past five years, up 30 percent from the previous five years. They convicted 83,308 people of corruption, among them 2,662 officials at the county level or higher — a 65 percent increase over the previous five-year period.
Increasingly, the courts were holding officials criminally accountable for corrupt acts, he said.
But Xiao acknowledged that serious problems persist in the courts, including judges who "go so far as to take bribes to ignore the law."
Han reported 411,379 arrests in the past five years for violent crimes including murder, rape and armed robbery.
Meanwhile, Chinese courts meted out severe punishments. Xiao said 819,000 people were given the death penalty or sentences of five years or longer for serious crimes — accounting for one-quarter of the 2.83 million criminal cases handled in the past five years.
"We are vigorously continuing the 'Strike Hard' campaign against organized crime," Xiao said. "Local tyrants who will stop at no evil have been punished mercilessly."