SHANGHAI police have smashed a professional cricket fighting ring in a raid that snared the city's most notorious handler of the insects, state media reported today.
Police arrested 66 people and seized 520,000 yuan ($107,857) at an illegal cricket fight yesterday night, a police spokeswoman said, confirming state media reports.
The blood sport, which dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), is flourishing in China's financial hub particularly among middle-aged unemployed men who bet tens of thousands of yuan on bouts, the Shanghai Daily cited investigating officers as saying.
In a cricket fight, handlers prod two insects with sticks until they are angry and then set them loose on each other in a box for a fight to the death.
Gambling on these bouts is illegal in China.
Winning crickets can become famous and funerals have been known to be held for them when they are defeated.
The prize fighters are fed special diets and are plied with female crickets to keep them in top form.
Among those arrested today was 51-year-old man named Lin, who police described as a legend in the world of cricket fighting for his skill at provoking the insects.
"Lin was famous among cricket fanciers,'' Tang Jun, one of the officers who led the raid, was quoted as saying in the Shanghai Daily.
"If Lin teased a cricket he could make it angry enough to beat even a stronger opponent. Lin was Shanghai's number one cricket teaser.''
The organised crime ring, which took five to 10 per cent of the winnings, would bus about 800 gamblers to unusual secret locations, including in one instance an office at a cemetery, Mr Tang was quoted as saying.
Today's raid took place at a cafeteria on the western outskirts of the city, police said.
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