Six Chinese government departments including the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security issued a joint statement Friday announcing a crackdown on telecom and Internet fraud.
According to the statement, if people who have conducted telecom and Internet fraud turn themselves up voluntarily in the police and confess their crimes before October 31, their punishment will be reduced according to relevant laws. If they don't do so before the stipulated deadline, their crimes will be dealt with severely.
Zhang Peihong, a lawyer at the Shanghai-based Huiye Law Firm, told the Global Times on Friday that the government's encouragement of crime confession is aimed at reducing the "dark figure of crime," the number of crime cases that have been committed but not included in the official statistics, within a short period of time.
"According to relevant legal provisions, leniency should be given to criminals who confess their crimes to the police, therefore what the government has done is within the legal limits," he noted.
But Zhang also said that the government has pushed the legal provisions about leniency to the extreme by setting a confession deadline, and this might cause a bit of a controversy.
"I would say the government's action does more good than harm," he said.
The government statement came at a time when several reported telecom fraud cases have exerted a strong influence on public opinion.
On August 19, Xu Yuyu, an 18-year-old high school graduate from East China's Shandong Province, died of cardiac arrest after she lost about 9,900 yuan ($1,500), meant for university tuition fees, to telecoms fraudsters.
Two other students also reportedly died in similar fraud cases recently.
According to China's Criminal Law, the maximum punishment for fraud is life imprisonment.
However, if criminals voluntarily turn themselves in to the police, their punishment would be reduced a notch, such as from life imprisonment to fixed-term imprisonment, Zhang said.
According to Zhang, the reasons why telecom and Internet fraud has been rampant in China are that personal information has been leaked, by banks for example, on a large scale, and that the police have put most of their energy into safeguarding public security and could not focus on fraud cases reported by ordinary people.
The statement also noted that by the end of 2016, all the telephone users in China must register their genuine identity information with domestic telecommunications enterprises.
The government would also take measures to prohibit companies and individuals from illegally obtaining or selling personal information of domestic citizens, according to the statement.
Zhang said that the government should also establish a remedy system for crime victims.