China Security Memo: March 18, 2010.

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      On March 12, a Beijing court sentenced four men to prison terms ranging from seven to eight months for running an illegal private investigation service. The judge explained that the men, all former farmers from Liaoning province with middle-school educations, had illegally profited from violating the privacy and property rights of others. Private detective firms are considered illegal operations in China, but many continue to offer the same sort of investigative services under different business registrations. There is certainly a burgeoning public demand for personal and business information in China far beyond what the police are responsible for or would provide. Private detective agencies by any other name have grown to fill this gap. And it is not unusual for private investigators to be involved in criminal activity.