China’s top court, prosecutors report surging cyberscams, stress protecting national security

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BEIJING — China saw large increases in arrests and cases of phone and internet scams last year, according to reports presented Friday to the National People’s Congress that stressed the ruling Communist Party’s determination to safeguard national security and public order.

A report issued by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate said the number of cases of computer crimes including social media fraud jumped 36.2% in 2023 and involved 323,000 people.

The sharp increase likely reflects a doubling down on cross-border computer fraud that has resulted in thousands of people, some of them victims of human traffickers who forced them to work for crime rings in remote areas of Myanmar and other neighboring countries, being returned to China.

Indictments of people for telecoms fraud jumped nearly 67% to about 51,000, the report said.

Overall, arrests surged 47% to 726,000 and indictments were up 17.3% to 168,800, the report said.

China’s national congress serves mainly a ceremonial role, endorsing policies set by President Xi Jinping and other top leaders of the Communist Party. It is due to end its six-day session on Monday with approvals of reports by Premier Li Qiang and others that set the party’s plans for the year.

As China marks the 75th anniversary of the Oct. 1, 1949, founding of the People’s Republic of China, the party is stressing its determination to fortify its control and protect national security.

Courts will “Implement the overall concept of national security and severely punish crimes that endanger national security and public safety according to the law,” a report by the Supreme People’s Court said.

It said authorities would persist in crackdowns on organized crime, telecoms and internet fraud, cross border gambling and graft.

The report highlighted perennial efforts to root out nepotism, bribery and other corruption, noting there were 25 cases last year involving senior-level officials. In 2023, courts handled 24,000 cases of bribery and other graft, up nearly 20%, it said.

The prosecutors’ report said 346 people were indicted last year on suspicion of involvement with fraudulent IPOs, insider trading and market manipulation.

China has gradually been updating its legal system to reflect changing times. A Chinese court handled the country’s first individual bankruptcy case last year, as corporate bankruptcies jumped nearly 70% from the year before.

The courts also reversed the verdicts of 42 criminal cases related to private property ownership, the supreme court’s report said.

It said the number of cases related to pollution fell 11.5% last year.

In a separate report, the Standing Committee of the congress outlined a raft of plans related to the economy, saying it would establish a financial stability law, an emergency management law, a hazardous chemicals law and laws on energy and atomic energy.

Laws on money laundering, bankruptcy, unfair competition, mineral resources and cybersecurity will be revised, it said.

While the gist of the reports was typical of past years, the court’s report included 20 pages of charts, graphs and illustrations apparently designed to convey its message of being tough on crime with greater clarity.

Some pages included QR codes, including one that linked to a website about a “model judge,” Pao Weichong, complete with comic strip-style illustrations.

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Associated Press researchers Yu Bing and Chen Wanqing contributed to this report.

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