China says it has never been safer, but not all agree
Murders and serious assaults are falling, but everyday crimes like fraud, corruption and theft are still rampant
China has never been a safer place to live, with one of the world’s lowest homicide rates and a steady decline in overall crime figures, a recent Communist Party work conference on public security was told.
There were 0.81 intentional homicide cases for every 100,000 people in China last year, the People’s Daily noted, citing statistics from the Ministry of Public Security. Brazil had 26.7 murders per 100,00 people in 2015, the US 4.9 and Russia 11.2. India had a ratio of 3.2 in 2014.
Other violent crimes in China, including wounding, assaults, robberies and arson, fell by 51.8% last year, and there was also a 43.8% decline in major road traffic accidents, according to the ministry.
China does not compile separate statistics for rapes and indecent assaults, grouping them instead under the broad category of serious violence, but there were 2.1 rapes per 100,000 residents in China in 2012, according to a United Nations report based on police records.
That rate is also among the world’s lowest: Sweden had 62.3 per 100,000, the US 27.1 and France 17.1 in the same year, though overall rape figures have since fallen in all these countries.
Public satisfaction with public security seems to be rising, with a recent survey commissioned by the ministry indicating more than 95% felt they were being well protected, up from 87% in 2012. The number of cases handled, the caseloads per capita, and closure rates all increased by 20% in the last year.
However, questions have been raised in the past over the reliability of China’s crime statistics, as it is believed that some go unreported in remote rural regions. It is known, for instance, that rapists are often let off with just a warning due to a culture of male dominance in which female sex crime victims feel too ashamed to speak up publicly.
While the ministry talks of its success rate, there is less reporting of the crimes that are more likely to affect the average person, like burglary and theft, fraud and swindles, corruption and money laundering, as well as petty crimes and offences. Some serious offences, such as human trafficking, also fall through the statistical cracks.
The ministry has admitted that financial crime is one of the biggest risks that people face in China, and is growing rapidly. In the past five years public agencies have successfully investigated over 60,000 financial crimes and cartels, recovering a total of 2 trillion yuan (US$316 billion), but crime analysts believe that police are still just scratching the surface of this problem.