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Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Monday, 22 December 2008

China plans new anti-gang effort

A migrant worker carries his bag as he leaves the Beijing Railway Station, Tuesday, 16 Dec, 2008
Many migrant workers are already suffering from the slowdown

China plans to launch a special campaign to combat mafia-style gangs, according to a state newspaper.

As well as tackling drug trafficking and prostitution, crimes caused by rising unemployment will be targeted, the China Daily newspaper reports.

The paper says police will also focus on rooting out corrupt government officials who shelter gangsters.

Analysts say China's economic downturn may lead to higher crime rates as thousands of people face unemployment.

'Threat to stability'

Organised crime is on the rise in China, and courts across the country saw a 160% annual increase in gang-related crime in 2007.

"Gang-related crimes have become a threat to our social stability and the economy," one un-named official from the Public Security Bureau told the China Daily.

"Murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, assault... they dare do anything," the official said.

He said the construction, transport and mining sectors were all areas that attracted gang crime, but warned that other industries were also increasingly being affected.

With the economic downturn, Chinese authorities are worried that the problem will get even worse, and the new campaign aims to make sure this does not happen.

The official said the authorities would "keep a close eye" on crime resulting from the slowing economy.

Migrant workers are the backbone of China's economic success, and these farmers-turned-factory workers have been the first to feel the effects of the economic slowdown.

To make matters worse, more than six million students will try to enter China's workforce during 2009, half a million more than last year.

As many as 10 million people are expected to lose their jobs, and thousands of factories have already closed, says the BBC correspondent in Beijing, Quentin Sommerville.

The government is expecting trouble during 2009, and China's huge security apparatus is signalling it is prepared to crackdown on anything that disrupts social stability, our correspondent says.

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