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Vulnerable victims rescued from gangs exploiting disabled

By Zhang Yan  (China Daily)

07:56, March 14, 2013

Police arrest 360 accused of forcing deaf-mute people into life of crime

Police have arrested 360 suspects who are suspected of abducting disabled people who cannot speak or hear and forcing them to commit crimes, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

Police in 21 provincial regions have uncovered 61 major criminal gangs exploiting vulnerable people and rescued 70 victims of the gangs in a recent joint operation, according to a statement from the ministry on Wednesday.

"Under the guise of offering jobs or travel, the suspects contacted disabled people via social networks, took them from deaf-mute schools and forced them under threat to commit crimes in provinces including Liaoning, Anhui, Henan and Sichuan," said Zhang Hongqiang, the Ministry of Public Security press officer, adding that most of the abducted people were in their 20s and came from rural areas.

According to the ministry, the key suspect, Yang Erdu, along with several others, was arrested during the action.

"Abducting and manipulating deaf-mute people to commit crimes is not only against the legitimate rights of disabled people, but poses a significant threat to their safety, and we will resolutely chase them down," said Chen Shiqu, director of the anti-human-trafficking office in the criminal investigation department under the MPS.

The ministry said that since 2012, police in Guangyuan, Sichuan province, and Dalian, Liaoning province, uncovered two major criminal gangs. The gangs may have been headed by Yang Erdu and Li Gang, who allegedly forced victims to commit crimes.

Police in Anhui province received reports from the public that about 10 graduates from a special school for people who cannot speak or hear, had gone missing. An investigation by local police found the missing students had been abducted by two criminal groups headed by Wang Hualing and Chen Yuxiu.

This type of criminal gang has a tight organizational structure with a clear division of labor, including providing training, managing identification, arranging crime routes and accommodation, arranging for the kidnapped victims to commit crimes and transferring stolen money, the ministry said.

"They beat, mistreated, inflicted corporal punishment and detained the disabled people. They forced and organized them to travel across provinces to thieve and steal," Zhang said.

On March 5, multiple police agencies conducted a joint arrest and rescue action, and by Friday, national police had arrested 360 suspects, and rescued 70 disabled victims, according to the ministry.

Hu Guangtao, a police officer from the criminal investigation bureau under the ministry, said such criminal gangs often have more than 20 members and obey strict disciplinary rules. "If they disobey the rules, they will be severely punished, including corporal punishment, such as cutting off ears or forcing them to steal up to 500,000 yuan," he said.

Hu said, the kidnapped victims were not allowed to use cellphones or search the Internet, and did not have their IDs or any cash.

Hong Daode, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said the suspects intentionally use people with limited communication skills to make it difficult for the law to convict them. "After the abductees are rescued by police, questioning has to be conducted through sign language interpreters," he said. "Police will face difficulties conducting their investigations and collecting evidence."

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