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China blames web for gun smuggling crims

State tries to justify even greater online snooping

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The Chinese authorities are blaming the world wide web and multinational delivery companies for a rise in gun smuggling into the People’s Republic.

A China Daily report claimed that criminal gangs are increasingly turning to the web to trade illegal weapons and then using express delivery networks to ship them into the country because they stand less chance of detection this way than if carrying them through land border checkpoints.

Police smashed 69 gun-smuggling rings and 20 criminal gangs last year, and thanks to a three month web crackdown begun in August, 2,000 guns and 32,000 bullets were confiscated, the report continued.

The firearms came from Asia, the US and Europe, and multinational delivery firms were urged to regulate their services more carefully to comply with local laws.

Qian Xiongfe, a senior officer from the Ministry of Public Security, told the paper that police would focus even greater scrutiny on suspected web sites, online forums and blogs going forward, as well as delivery companies.

Given that the China Daily is a state-run newspaper, as all of the media outlets are in China, this article could probably be viewed as a nice bit of PR for the shadowy ministry, and yet another means of justifying the state’s tough web monitoring laws.

While China continues to grow economically and has done much to engage internationally on the political and diplomatic front, the country is widely seen to have taken a turn for the worse when it comes to online freedoms under the presidency of Hu Jintao.

Aside from the shuttering of thousands of web sites deemed fraudulent, pornographic or harmful to society in some other way, the authorities have now turned their attention to micro-blogs, which they view with suspicion as a potentially disruptive force.

Most recently, web companies Sina and Tencent were punished and ordered to clean up their Twitter-like platforms after a crackdown on unfounded rumours of a political coup at the apex of the Communist Party which spread online last month. ®

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