A new blog encourages members of the public to take photographs of child beggars who may have been abducted. Picture: A disabled child beggar on the street. (Photo courtesy of Sina weibo)
China's government says it will step up efforts to return abducted children to their parents. Picture: A child beggar asks for money on the Shanghai metro. (Photo courtesy of Sina weibo)
The crime of kidnapping children and forcing them to become child beggars has become a subject of widespread online discussion in China. Some lawmakers have decided to propose new laws to prohibit child begging at the upcoming meetings of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body, and its advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
NPC member Chi Susheng and CPPCC member Han Hong, a singer by profession, said they will submit proposals to ban child begging and severely punish human traffickers during this year's plenary sessions of the two organizations in March.
The two decided to take the move after contacting professor Yu Jianrong at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who has launched an online campaign to rescue the large number of child beggars in the country.
Yu said the movement to save child beggars has gained widespread support. He confirmed that Chi and Han plan to draft rules to prohibit minors from begging.
Preparatory work has commenced under Yu's coordination, including consulting with lawyers, senior journalists and experts to draw up new regulations to ban those under the age of 14 from begging on the street.
Pu Chunxin, another CPPCC deputy, has voiced strong support. Pu suggested national public security agencies establish a special task force with adequate funding to crack down on the abduction of children and turning them into child beggars.
In addition to legislators and political advisers, Chen Shichu, an official from the Ministry of Public Security, also lent his support to the call. He said he is willing to keep close contact with relevant groups through microblogs. He welcomed and encouraged people to continue providing clues and tips for security agencies to take action.
A special microblog site set up by Yu has posted a number of snapshots of child beggars asking for handouts on streets in different cities provided by internet users.
The Ministry of Public Security started a nationwide campaign to crack down on kidnapping in April 2004. By the end of 2010, it had uncovered 9,165 cases of abduction involving women and 5,900 cases concerning children. A total of 17,746 women and 9,388 children were rescued as a result. As many as 3,573 human trafficking rings were busted and 22,511 suspected were detained.
The problem of child begging came to widespread attention in 1993 after people from Gongxiao village in Anhui province were found to be abducting children from neighboring villages and cities. Healthy children were maimed and disfigured to arouse greater sympathy. Some were even locked in kennels as part of training for begging, according to media reports.
After severely injuring the limbs, bodies and faces of the children, including using sulfuric acid, the kidnappers brought the children to major cities across China to beg for money. The disfigured child beggars sent out from Gongxiao village could be found in nearby counties or cities such Taihe, Fuyang, and Hefei, while many were sent to places as far away as Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou.
The kidnappers would normally feed the child beggars breakfast before leaving them at designated spots to beg for money while they themselves hid nearby to keep the children under surveillance. The abductors would beat the children and leave them hungry when the collected money failed to meet a specified amount.
Chi Susheng 遲夙生
Han Hong 韓紅
Yu Jianrong 于建嶸