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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 17, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---The recent shooting of a Chinese man from Hong Kong at a Saipan restaurant has raised concerns about Asian gangs operating in the islands.

Local police, who ordered a news blackout regarding the shooting, are investigating a possible link to international crime organizations. The U.S. FBI also is investigating the crime

"We have sources from police saying this could be the handiwork of professional killers," said Lindablue Romero, a reporter at the Saipan Tribune taking with Pacific Beat’s Clement Paligaru.

"We have reports that the police have been looking into the increasing activities of Chinese gangs on the island," she said. "It’s more drug related. They have suspicions, although they have no evidence yet, that they might be smuggling in firearms.

Romero said the incident has put the business community on alert in light of the slowdown of the economy as a result of the Asian economic crisis.

"You don’t want the island to be portrayed as a place where people are killed while eating in a restaurant," she said.

However, Saipan Chamber of Commerce President Lynn Knight said although local businesses are concerned, people should not overreact.

"I don’t feel that the island is being overrun by organized crime," Knight said.

She noted that a new international immigration computer system to be activated in September will help better monitor people entering the CNMI.

But Romero said nothing will be done to fight international crime unless there is a public uproar.

"The case is a big black eye right now," Romero said. "It gives a picture of Saipan as a haven for Hong Kong crime."

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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