BEIJING China's government told police across the country to get tough on prostitution, gambling and drugs following an expose in the "sin city" of Dongguan, where a crackdown on prostitution led to the detention of nearly 1,000 people this month.
The announcement, on the Ministry of Public Security's official website late on Monday, said investigations had begun in several provinces, and police had broken up 73 vice rings and closed down 2410 prostitution and gambling dens over the past week.
China outlawed prostitution after the Communist revolution in 1949, but it returned with a vengeance following landmark economic reforms three decades ago, and has helped fuel a rise in HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Gambling is also banned in China with the exception of heavily regulated state-sanctioned lotteries.
While periodic sweeps against vice have been carried out, it has thrived. Law enforcement is often lax.
In a warning to what the authorities call the "protective umbrella" of official collusion, the ministry said officials would be "seriously investigated, and crimes will be resolutely investigated in accordance with the law".
The police chief of the southern city of Dongguan, Yan Xiaokang, who was also vice mayor, was sacked last Friday for dereliction of duty. Another seven Dongguan officials were dismissed in relation to the case.
This year, a raid on a village in Guangdong province, thought to be responsible for producing a third of the country's methamphetamines, led to the arrests of the local party secretary and police chief, the Yangchang Evening News newspaper reported.
This latest crackdown is unusual in that it has garnered extensive coverage in domestic media, with the main state broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV) airing a half-hour report chronicling what appeared to be extensive and open prostitution in five towns across Dongguan on February 9.
(Reporting By Natalie Thomas; Editing by Robert Birsel)