China’s newest public security vice-minister will have the job of improving cybersecurity both inside and outside his place of work, observers said on Thursday.

The appointment of Lin Rui, which was announced on Wednesday, less than five months after he was named an assistant public security minister and head of its cybersecurity bureau, reflected the importance Chinese President Xi Jinping put on cleaning up cyberspace, sources said.

And his first major crackdown on cybercrime appears to be well under way.

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“I know lots of people working for big data companies have been detained by the cyber police since last month,” a source who once worked for one of the country’s biggest data firms said. “This crackdown is much bigger than the one they had in May.”

The source said that part of the investigation was into a widespread leak of official identity photographs from public security agencies. The images were often obtained by criminal gangs who would then use them to blackmail people.

“The success rate of this type of con scheme is actually very high,” he said. “But we need to ask, where do they get the ID photos from?”

With a degree in applied computing from the People’s Public Security University of China, Lin, 51, is regarded as a specialist in cybersecurity and cybercrime prevention.

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Xi expressed his determination to combat cybercrime at an industry conference in Beijing in April.

“Without web security, there’s no national security, there’s no economic and social stability, and it’s difficult to ensure the interests of the broader masses,” Xinhua quoted him as saying at the time.

Lin is also regarded as one of Xi’s trusted allies, having worked for many years in southeast China’s Fujian province, where the president spent 17 years during the earlier stages of his political career.

Three other vice-ministers at the pubic security ministry also worked in Fujian, namely Wang Xiaohong, the deputy secretary of the ministry’s Communist Party committee, Xu Ganlu, head of the State Administration of Immigration, and Deng Weiping, the anti-corruption chief.

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Lin’s promotion also followed the detention of Meng Hongwei, the former president of Interpol and public security vice-minister.

As chief of police in the Fujian city of Xiamen in 2014, Lin was praised for his crackdown on a criminal gang involved in telephone scams, that succeeded after he persuaded all of the parties involved – from banks to telecom firms and the police themselves – to work together.

A former colleague said that after that success, “police from all over China visited Xiamen to learn about anti-fraud centres” and that “Lin became well-known in China’s public security system”.

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