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* Banks' WMPs up 18.6 pct at end-March from start of year
* CBRC says "overall risk situation remains complex and severe" Commercial bank NPLs total 1.58 trln yuan by end-March
* PBOC gov: confident in preventing and eliminating systemic risks (Adds details, PBOC governor comments)
SHANGHAI/BEIJING, April 22 (Reuters) - The growth of Chinese wealth management products (WMPs) and interbank liabilities eased in the first quarter of the year, China's banking regulator said late on Friday, amid a crackdown by Beijing on risky behaviour in the financial markets.
The China Banking and Regulatory Commission (CBRC) said in a statement the value of banks' wealth management products totalled 29.1 trillion yuan ($4.23 trillion) at the end of March, up 18.6 percent from the start of the year.
It said this growth rate was down close to 35 percentage points from the rate in the same period last year.
China's banking and securities watchdogs have recently upped their campaign against risky lending, with the top securities regulator urging stock exchanges earlier this month to "brandish their sword" and punish market misbehaviours "with no mercy".
"The overall risk situation remains complex and severe," the CBRC said, adding it would "vigorously manage financial chaos".
The CBRC added in the statement it would take a "proactive" stance to prevent rising financial risks, including boosting credit controls, appropriately controlling property financing as well as improving regulation of online lenders.
The banking regulator has recently issued a slew of policy directives aimed at lenders' shadow banking business and risk management. The insurance regulator has also called on insurers to tighten supervision of their operations and investments.
Commercial banks' non-performing loans (NPLs) totalled 1.58 trillion yuan by the end of March, up 67.3 billion yuan since the start of the year, it said, adding the NPL rate was 1.74 percent, very slightly down from the same period in 2016.
Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of China's central bank, said on Saturday China's corporate and financial sectors were broadly resilient, with risks "well under control".
"The banking sector's capital and provisions remain adequate, with non-performing loans staying low. China is fully confident in preventing and eliminating systemic risks," he said.
$1 = 6.8845 Chinese yuan Reporting by Adam Jourdan in SHANGHAI, Shu Zhang and Matt Miller in BEIJING; Editing by Jacqueline Wong