Chinese official pledges anti-counterfeit push

A senior Chinese official has promised to strengthen anti-counterfeit laws after a high-profile call to action from Alibaba chairman Jack Ma was echoed by other industry leaders.

The e-commerce giant says that Minister of State Administration for Industry and Commerce Zhang Mao acknowledged the comments made by Ma in an open letter published on the Twitter-like Weibo service, in which he called for tougher penalties for counterfeiters and asked the government to do more to help businesses fight the scourge.

Speaking last week at a press conference on the side-lines of a government plenary meeting in Beijing, Zhang said last week it was important to strengthen China's laws, according to Alibaba's Alizila news website, although there were few details available.

Zhang's comments are hardly going against the party line. Last year, Zhang Xiangchen, China's deputy international-trade representative, confessed during a trip to the US that intellectual property rights (IPR) is still a fairly new concept in China and there is considerable room for improvement in helping companies enforce those rights.

Ma's post was followed by similar exhortations from the China Entrepreneurs Club and its former chairman, Lenovo Group founder Liu Chuanzhi, which both issued their own statements asking the government to "increase the legal cost of counterfeiting" and strengthen the legal structure surrounding IPR protection.

This was followed by a series of comments from other influential Chinese businessmen. The founder of electronics company Xiaomi - Lei Jun - described fake goods as "a social cancer, a serious damage to the image of the country and consumer confidence," and said it was time to support efforts to get rid of them.

In similar vein, Lenovo president and chief executive Yang Yuanqing, said there is a pressing need to establish a "complete legal system against infringement" and also to make sure that counterfeiters "have to pay a price they can't afford and even bear criminal responsibility."

Yang sits on the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and has a record of advocacy for changes in China’s laws. In 2014, he championed a push for a legal framework to protect privacy and personal data on the web and personal devices.

Finally, Liu Yonghao, chairman of giant Chinese agribusiness New Hope said "fake and shoddy goods affect our industries, the orderly development of enterprises and also affect China’s international image." He said counterfeiting is a cancer to innovation and must be "resolutely resisted."

The tougher line being taken by China's industrial elite reflects the fact that Chinese companies are increasingly involved in new product development and the generation of IPR - and are being impacted by the same criminals who have been faking goods from foreign corporations for many years.

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