TIANJIN (AFP) - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday vowed no leniency for corporate lawbreakers whether domestic or foreign, as Beijing pursues a high-profile anti-monopoly crackdown.
"We will mete out stringent punishment to companies, domestic or foreign, that are involved in producing counterfeit or shoddy goods, engaging in fraud and deception, and stealing trade secrets," Mr Li said in a speech to a World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Tianjin. "We will penalise serious intellectual property infringement to the full extent of the law, including by imposing heavy fines so as to make lawbreakers pay insufferable prices."
He spoke before a hall of Chinese and foreign business executives, along with some visiting foreign leaders, at the annual WEF New Champions gathering in the northern port.
Beijing has denied that foreign companies are being targeted. "As the saying goes, only by weeding out the barnyard grass can rice grow properly," Mr Li said in his speech. "Being lenient to lawbreakers is tantamount to doing wrong to law-abiding people."
He did not mention the anti-monopoly crackdown, but state media reported on Wednesday that he told foreign business leaders in Tianjin on Tuesday that only 10 per cent of companies investigated by antitrust authorities are foreign.
Mr Li said that the increase in such probes was part of improved transparency in administration, the China Daily newspaper said.
"We improved the transparency of government supervision, which is meant to restore the fairness of the market," it quoted him as saying.
The WEF has been holding annual meetings in China, dubbed the "Summer Davos", since 2007. Mr Li's predecessor Wen Jiabao was a fixture at the gatherings during his term, which ended early last year.
China has recently carried out high-profile probes into alleged anti-competitive practices by a host of foreign companies in a range of sectors including automotive, pharmaceuticals, baby formula and technology.