The Chinese government has extended its cost of living benefits to all beggars and homeless people, Deputy Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Li listed three main causes of begging in China: "Some become beggars because of poverty, but a few choose begging as their profession and some are coerced into becoming beggars."
"Those begging because of poverty will receive a basic living allowance," he said.
Under the system, the average basic living cost in urban areas is 169.6 yuan (22.3 U.S. dollars) per person each month and that in rural areas is 71.4 yuan (9.39 U.S. dollars).
The subsidy equals the basic living cost minus an individual's average income. On average, the government pays 92 yuan to urban recipients and 28 yuan to rural beneficiaries per month.
"The government opposes professional begging and will educate and guide these people to earn a living through other work," he said.
"Those who coerce minors or the disabled to beg will be punished according to the law, and those coerced will be helped by the government," he said.
Last year, China's Social Aid Centers helped 1.2 million homeless, including beggars, said Li.
The centers provide the homeless with food, accommodation and transport expenses to return home. Normally the homeless remain at centers for 10 days. The disabled and minors are reported to their local civil affairs authorities and taken home if relatives failed to collect them, according to regulations on aiding the homeless.
The regulation on aiding the homeless was implemented in 2003. It was intended to change policies from forcibly returning the urban homeless to their home provinces to focus on aiding them.
In 2003, Sun Zhigang, a Wuhan Science College graduate, was imprisoned as a vagrant by the police in Guangzhou for not having identification. Three days later, he was beaten to death by wardens.
The crime appalled the nation and the laws on the homeless were amended.