How Many Fugitives are There in China?

Xu Xinlian

In May 2011, after living in seclusion as a Buddhist Monk for the last 17 years, “Master Weidi” was arrested at the Jingsi Temple in Hangzhou. Weidi, as it turns out, was actually named Xu Xinlian (徐心联), and was a fugitive who had been on the run since 1994 for the murder of a husband, wife and their two-year-old son in Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province. The other five men involved in the murder were arrested, but Xu Xinlian managed to escape.

In December 2011, Sheng Xiang (盛乡) an actor famous for his role as an intelligence agent on a popular TV show was arrested in Jinhua, Zhejiang Province after he was identified as Ji Shiguang (吉世光), a fugitive suspected in an attack on a police official in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province, 13 years ago. The three other men involved in the assault were arrested years ago.

Similar news reports about fugitives being caught years (or decades) after they committed crimes have been frequently appearing in Chinese media recently. While the crimes these fugitives committed in the past are certainly deplorable, what has really been piquing the public’s interest in these cases is that these criminals have been hiding in broad daylight, assuming fabricated identities, apparently with relative ease. Despite seeing these fugitives brought to justice (better late than never, right?), one cannot help but wonder, how many fugitives are still out there?

Heard it through the grape vine…

No doubt, this is the kind of data that falls under China’s “top secret” classification, so unfortunately it’s difficult to say with complete certainty how many fugitives presently exist in China. However I do remember, a while back, I read in some book, “China’s 300,000 fugitives is one of the factors leading to social instability.” Unfortunately, in the two days that I spent writing this article, I was unable to find the book that this data came from. I believe that this figure is more-or-less accurate. Let’s compare this 300,000 figure with what we do know.

Officials fleeing abroad and other statistics

According to a 2010 Procuratorial Daily report, approximately 4,000 Chinese officials have fled abroad, bringing with them more than 50 billion USD in illicit funds. Certain developed countries, most prominently the United States, have become known as “fleeing paradises” for corrupt officials, as they generally refuse to extradite corrupt officials back to China because of concerns about China’s widespread use of the death penalty as well as doubts about the fairness and independence of the courts.

Recently, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, in a work report to the National People’s Congress, announced that in 2011, 78 billion RMB in illicit funds had been recovered, and 1,631 people suspected for “duty crimes” (职务犯罪) were arrested. The total number of duty crime suspects arrested both domestically and abroad rose 27% since 2010.

While interesting, for the sake of verifying the “300,000 fugitives” claim, such data is not worth taking into account, as these numbers are relatively small, and there are a lot more common fugitives hanging around inside the country.

Ministry of Public Security campaign to track down fugitives

In May 2011, public security organs nationwide rolled out an online campaign (“清网行动”) to better connect with other departments and bureaus, and to encourage the public to report any information they have that could help the authorities track down fugitives.

On April 6th, 2012, the results of the campaign were reported during a meeting held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. According to media reports, the campaign succeeded in arresting 16 “Class A” fugitives (wanted by the Ministry of Public Security), 175 “Class B” fugitives (those wanted by provincial-level public security organs) and 201 fugitives sought under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Security (部督), as well as 12,000 fugitives suspected of being involved in a homicide, 23,000 fugitives who disappeared more than 10 years ago, and more than 900 fugitives extradited back to China.

While this report disclosed that 23,000 “10-year-plus” fugitives had been arrested, it did not disclose the number of “less-than-10-year” fugitives. Based on my own grasp of China’s legal system, I’d say that the number of recent fugitives far exceeds the number of “10-year-plus” fugitives. Then there is the additional question of what proportion of the total fugitive population do these 23,000 “10-year-plus” arrested fugitives represent? My own estimates put the “10-year-plus” fugitives somewhere around 100,000 in total.

Details of the Guangdong Province campaign

More detailed information was released about the campaign in Guangdong Province specifically. According to an article that appeared in Yangcheng Evening News on April 19th, during the 2011 campaign, 27,979 fugitives were arrested in Guangdong Province; more than any other province in the China.

Generally speaking, taking into account the population of Guangdong Province and the extent of its economic development, I’d estimate that this provincial data should account for about one-tenth of the national total, which supports the 300,000 fugitive claim.

Supreme People’s Court data

One last way to roughly verify the 300,000 fugitive claims is to consider the 2012 Supreme People’s Court work report data. According to the report, in 2011, People’s Courts at all levels investigated 840,000 first-instance criminal cases, and sentenced 1.05 million people. Based on past trends, the ratio of convicted versus fugitives is about 3:1, which also calculates out to about 300,000 fugitives. Perhaps this number, as huge as it seems, is not an exaggeration after all.

Translated by eChinacities from
Wang Xuetang (

Categories: Crime & Corruption

Tags: , , , ,

3 replies

  1. Reblogged this on Craig Hill.



  1. China’s anti-corruption measures clamp down on ‘naked’ officials trying to escape « China Daily Mail
  2. China’s most wanted man shot dead « China Daily Mail

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