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China tightens crackdown on epidemic-related crimes
update:February 27,2020
Feb.27,2020 -- China has beefed up the crackdown on epidemic-related crimes to guarantee people's rights and interests, imposing harsh punishment and creating a favorable judicial environment in the fight against the virus outbreak.
On Feb. 14, a man surnamed Zhu was sentenced to six months in prison in the city of Dezhou, east China's Shandong Province, and fined 2,000 yuan (about 285 U.S. dollars) for publishing false information online pretending he had masks for sale.
This was the first online fraud case concerning the epidemic busted in Shandong, taking 48 hours from filing to the final sentencing.
In the critical period, China has handled such cases promptly and effectively. A mask-related fraud case was concluded within 24 hours on Feb. 21 in Changfeng County in east China's Anhui Province, with the defendant sentenced to five years. In the southern Chinese city of Liuzhou, a court upheld on the same day a jail sentence of three years and six months over a mask fraud, taking less than three hours.
"It shows the resolute attitude of China's judicial organs to crack down on epidemic-related crimes," said Yu Jiahua, director of Shandong Gongfu Law Firm.
A guideline, jointly released earlier this month by the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP), the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and the Ministry of Justice, identified and specified several illegal acts that jeopardize epidemic prevention and control.
It stressed that strong actions should be taken to punish hoarding protective equipment such as masks and goggles and intentional price hikes, and acts of profiteering that severely disturb market order during the epidemic period shall be punished as the crime of illegal operations.
On Feb. 11, the SPP exposed the first batch of 10 typical cases of epidemic-related crimes.
A total of seven types of crimes were made public, including violence against medical workers, manufacturing and selling fake products, price gouging and jeopardizing wildlife resources.
The MPS, together with the State Administration for Market Regulation, has required local authorities to strengthen the coordination of law enforcement and justice departments to strictly and promptly punish hiking up prices of protective equipment and daily commodities.
Police in Guangdong, Liaoning, Shandong and Hubei provinces have been investigating in cases where the suspects had been profiteering through selling masks at exorbitant prices.
Public security authorities across China have handled around 22,000 criminal cases related to the epidemic as of Monday, according to the MPS Wednesday.
A total of 4,260 suspects implicated in the cases have been detained. So far, police have cracked 688 cases involving the production and sale of counterfeit and shoddy protective materials, with more than 1,560 suspects apprehended and over 31 million fake or inferior face masks seized, according to the MPS.
"Harsh punishment on epidemic-related crimes in accordance with the law to maintain social order and stability provides a strong legal guarantee for winning the epidemic war," said Hu Changlong, a professor at the Law School of Shandong University.
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