Tangshan updates hotlines to facilitate tip-offs on gang crimes; 'time to test city's resolve' to eradicate chronic problem of social governance
Published: Jun 15, 2022 12:47 AM
Tangshan launches a special campaign against crimes dubbed Thunderstorm.

Tangshan launches a special campaign against crimes dubbed "Thunderstorm." Photo:VCG

Tangshan, which is mired in broad questions on the city's governance capability and efforts in fighting gang crimes, updated its hotlines to facilitate tip-offs on crimes as its latest special campaign against crimes has attracted flocks of locals to police stations in the wake of a brutal assault in a barbecue restaurant, which shocked the nation as it was at odds with a broader safe national context. 

City leaders expressed great concern. At 1 am on Wednesday, Tangshan's Party secretary Wu Weidong, mayor Tian Guoliang inspected the "Thunderstorm" commanding center, and stressed the police "should not let go of any problem clue," and "zero tolerance" to all kinds of illegal crimes. The city leaders later came to the grassroot-level police stations, stressing the need to strengthen round-the-clock duty, strengthen patrols and encourage police forces to embed themselves in communities to ensure social security and stability.

Observers believed that the case also serves to test and prove the city's resolve and will to eradicate a chronic problem of social governance. The deep-rooted issues exposed in the latest violent attack proved that persistent efforts need to be made to root out gang crimes and evil deeds. 

The city, an industrial powerhouse in North China's Hebei Province about 175 kilometers from Beijing, opened new landline and mobile phone channels to address complaints after locals said the previous contact number was not available and there weren't enough channels for reports.

Tuesday marked the third day of the special campaign dubbed "Thunderstorm," which targets illegal acts such as fighting, insulting women, extortion, gambling, drug use as well as dereliction of duty and cover-ups of crimes. 

At some of the city's public security bureaus, more than 100 people sat by the roadside, waiting in line to report their misfortunes to the police, according to media reports. Some people arrived at 7 am and waited for four hours. A Global Times reporter also dialed no less than 15 times, but the lines were always busy.

An officer at a police station in Tangshan's Hancheng sub-district told the Global Times on Tuesday that the station was very busy, with one person answering calls from the public 24 hours a day and recording reports.

Since the start of "Thunderstorm," the public security, prosecutorial and legal organs have sent permanent staff to assist grassroots-level workers in handling cases, another police officer who asked for anonymity in the Diaoyutai sub-district told the Global Times. 

The police officer noted that the government has clearly expressed the determination to remediate evil forces and gang activities. 

The Global Times found that more than 10 Tangshan residents showed their real-name reports on social media in the past three days. Those who have been reported include previous village officials, leaders of public security departments, and the head of the construction bureau. The common denominator is that they are accused of having used their power to make profits, and acting as protective umbrellas for criminal gangs, intimidating, beating and even illegally detaining people. 

The central authorities have always given top priority to the work of cracking down on violations of social order and fighting against gang crimes and their protective umbrellas. In the previous three-year campaign against organized and gang-related crimes from 2018 to 2020, a total of 3,644 mafia-style organizations and 11,675 other criminal gangs were busted around the country. 

Experts believe that organized and vicious crimes are not unique to China but monopoly tends to breed corruption and gang-related crimes. As the largest city in Hebei in terms of economic scale, Tangshan has a high proportion of heavy industry which involves monopolistic resources. Therefore, it is easy to form a "community of interests," so that evil forces have the opportunity to exploit loopholes to grab economic benefits from the city's development, with ensuing corruption, violence and exploitation, and social conflicts.

Tangshan is China's largest steel production city. It produced 131.11 million tons of crude steel in 2021, accounting for nearly 13 percent of China's total and surpassing the world's second-biggest steelmaker - India, which made 118 million tons of the metal last year, media reports said. 

In addition to heavy industries such as steel and coal, in terms of light industries, Tangshan is the porcelain industry center with the highest size in North China.

"Compared with manufacturing-driven growth, growth driven by primary product industries like Tangshan's (mineral extraction, fishing and so on) has weaknesses… The key to operating a primary product industry is to 'balance out the relevant sources' and occupy resources, even if there are no innovations to please downstream industries," Mei Xinyu, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation of China's Ministry of Commerce, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

He pointed out that provinces rich in coal and nonferrous metals, such as North China's Shanxi and Central China's Hunan, have been hit hardest by the central government's anti-corruption campaign in recent years.

Mao Shoulong, a professor of public administration at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that Tangshan is in a period of social transformation, when more problems tend to surface. 

Although it is mainly dominated by heavy industries, foreign trade, the processing industry and general commerce are also gradually becoming more active. 

He said the local government of Tangshan faces a tough task. "I understand the public's anxiety, but many things still need to be handled in accordance with the law and regulations. It takes a long time to establish a chain of evidence to investigate a case, and it is almost impossible to catch all the criminals at once."

Tangshan carried out a campaign against gang crimes from 2018 to 2020. The list of criminals uncovered in the past even included former government officials, staff from the public security bureaus and court leaders.

In a five-month campaign against gangs launched in May 2021, a total of 5,760 criminal cases were solved in the city, 10 criminal gangs were busted and 5,458 suspects were arrested, making it one of the best in the province, local media reported.

"An economic downturn will lead to the deterioration of social security, this is an iron law of ancient and modern times," Mei said. "Evil forces should be eliminated, but the city should not be discredited, nor should there be damages to Tangshan's backbone industries, because a fundamental solution to social security problems needs to be built on the basis of economic prosperity."