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Last Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
China death threat for oil theft
Chinese worker in oil refinery
China is currently covered by 30,000km of oil pipeline
Chinese police have vowed to clamp down on pipeline oil theft, even threatening to impose the death penalty.

According to police oil theft cost the industry more than 1bn yuan ($124.6m, 71.8m) and led to 2,877 arrests.

Many cases were so serious they had "wrecked" production facilities, senior police officials told reporters.

"Criminal punishments will be meted out, including the death penalty," said Ma Weiya, vice director of the police social security management department.

While increased police surveillance had almost halved the number of thefts, he added a significant number of thefts were also going unnoticed, particularly in the Chinese countryside.

'Tempting'

China is currently battling with spiralling demand for fuel and soaring prices - a factor which has made the risk of oil theft a more attractive proposition.

The majority of crude oil thieves are farmer peasants in the impoverished and remote regions, who earn a third as much as their city dwelling counterparts, Mr Ma said.

One popular method used to steal oil involves thieves building a hut and then drilling into oil pipes beneath the building.

"Oil issues in a large, developing country like ours with relatively few of its own reserves, impact upon national security, social stability and the economy's sustainable, fast and healthy development," Mr Ma said.

China already has almost 30,000 kilometres of pipelines, which will be extended in the near future.




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