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Beijing, Apr 6: A Chinese official has urged police in a booming southern city to shoot motorcycle-riding purse snatchers before they chop off the hands of victims who resist, a Hong Kong newspaper said today.

Three Chinese police officers were awarded 10,000 yuan ($1,250) each after they shot dead a robbery suspect and caught two others, Chinese and Hong Kong newspapers said.

The killing drew praise from Zhang Guifang, deputy party chief of southern Guangzhou in charge of public security, who advocated lethal force to combat the city's high crime rate.

''Facing hand-chopping gangs, officers should dare to shoot,'' Zhang was quoted as saying in Hong Kong's Wen Wei Pao newspaper, referring to knife-wielding bag-snatchers.

''Otherwise, it will be a tragedy for both civilians and police,'' he said.

Crime has soared along with the economic boom of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong, in the past two decades, with motorcycle-riding bag-snatchers bent on making speedy getaways often hacking off the hands or arms of victims who hang on to their purses and bags.

The barbarity of the attacks when attempting to steal anything from cell phones to earrings to purses has caused public outrage and fear across the province, media said earlier.

To ease the ''grave situation'', the province's high court, prosecutor's office and police bureau issued guidelines in February authorising violent purse-grabbers to face stiff armed robbery charges, as opposed to the lighter sentences for ordinary theft.

REUTERS

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