People who coerce or cajole children into becoming beggars will be the focus of a nationwide crime fighting campaign by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), a senior official told the Global Times today.
Chen Shiqu, head of the ministry's Office Against Human Trafficking, said public security departments nationwide will "do all they can" to bring justice to those who force youngsters into lives of crime.
"Many of these children are tortured by their bosses, so we're working with the Ministry of Civil Affairs to rescue them and return them to their homes or protection centers," he said.
Full details of the campaign will be released on July 10, he said.
Chen also called for "more public participation" in monitoring and fighting crime involving street children.
About 1.5 million youngsters are currently living on the nation's streets, according to figures from the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council.
The gangs that control the youngsters have little regard for their welfare and regularly force them to work in extreme weather conditions, tie them up to prevent them from escaping, beat and even disable them, a report on the MPS' website said.
Begging is not a crime in China, but organizing children to do so is, under both the criminal law and the Law on Public Security Administration Punishments.
A teacher surnamed Yang told the Global Times today that she had firsthand experience of dealing with children who had been forced into begging.
She said that on May 20, she met a young boy called Ren who was locked inside a metal cage and begging outside the Dazhong Electronics Shop in Xuanwu district, Beijing. She said the boy told her he was paralyzed.
"He looked extremely thin and asked me to put money in a bag between his legs," she said.
"When I offered to take him for a free medical checkup at the nearby Xuanwu Hospital, two men and four women suddenly gathered around me," she said.
"A man with a Dongbei accent told me the boy had an incurable disease."
Later that day, a man, accompanied by a blind person and a well-dressed woman in her 50s, walked up to Ren and took all the money he had in his bag, Yang said.
Police told the Global Times today that the man had been identified as 35-year-old Xing Changhui, a native of Fuyang, Anhui Province.
He had paid Ren 3,000 yuan ($440) to work as a professional beggar at supermarkets, bus stops and train stations.
"Ren comes from Puyang in Henan and is 15 years old," a police officer surnamed Gao from Beijing's Criminal Investigation Team said.
"He had to hand over any money he made from begging to Xing," he said.
"After we found out about the case, we rescued Ren and he now lives in a protection center for teenagers," Gao said.
While Ren's story had a positive ending, thousands of other cases remain unresolved due to the difficulty of collecting evidence, Beijing lawyer Zhang Zhiwei told the Global Times.
"The criminals are very good at covering their tracks, and will often claim to be parents of the children," he said.
"It's hard to prove they are not, unless a DNA test is carried out."
Another problem is that many people do not even realize that organizing children to work as beggars is actually a crime, so they never report what they see, Zhang said.
"The public just accept the fact there are child beggars and expects the government to sort it out. Few people know that the problem can sometimes be linked to the more serious crime of trafficking," he said.
The parents of Kong Qing-hao, who was born in April 2007, know how painful losing a child in that way can be.
Their son went missing in Xingtai, Hebei Province, on June 14, 2008, Zhang Baoyan, director of Baby Come Home, an NGO that fights human trafficking in China, told the Global Times today.
"Our volunteers found out that Kong was being held by a woman beggar in Fuzhou, Fujian
Province, so they tracked her down and took pictures of the infant," she said.
"Police looked at the images and said there was a 90-percent chance the baby was Kong."
Unfortunately, by the time the decision was made, the woman and baby had disappeared, so he is still missing, Zhang said.
Kong's father, Kong Xianbo, told the Global Times that he and his wife had traveled to Fuzhou to look for their son but had no luck.
"Those black-hearted traffickers snatched my boy in the daytime and even called to tell me they had him. I told the local police in Xingtai, but they did nothing," he said.
"The government should chase these criminals down and lock them up."Source:Global Times