China orders police to resolve conflicts early

June 15, 2010

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BEIJING—China has ordered police to identify and resolve conflicts before they boil over as part of a "strike hard" campaign aimed at social tensions blamed for a recent wave of violent crime.

A series of attacks have shocked China, including five assaults at schools that killed at least 17 youngsters and wounded more than 50, and have forced authorities to confront violent crime, word of which spreads quickly among worried Chinese by cell phone and the Internet.

"China, during a process of social and economic transformation, is facing emerging social conflicts and new problems in social security," Tuesday's China Daily newspaper cited Public Security Vice Minister Zhang Xinfeng as saying. "Police at all levels must fully realize the complexity of the problem."

A Ministry of Public Security announcement said police were ordered to identify problems at the root and resolve conflicts in their early stages. They will target trouble spots like city outskirts for violence, gun and gang crimes.

The ministry did not give specifics, but resolving conflicts at their roots could refer to resolving protests peacefully or identifying individuals with worrying behavior.

Another priority for improving social stability was to ensure the success of the World Expo under way in Shanghai and the Asian Games to be held in November in the southern city of Guangzhou, the announcement said.

Similar campaigns were launched ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but they generally targeted people suspected of anti-government activities.

The new crackdown appeared to be China's response to experts who say the problem isn't a lack of police or surveillance, but simmering and widespread frustration over the growing wealth gap, corruption and too few legal channels for people who have grievances.

Several of the recent attacks were sparked by grudges. A man who killed three judges in central China was apparently upset over how the court divided assets in his divorce, and a school attacker had a rent dispute that local authorities had refused to help him resolve.

Another element is China's lack of trained medical specialists to treat the mentally ill. At least three of the school attackers had a history of mental health problems. top stories on Twitter

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