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Shanghai exposes professional beggars

Updated: 2012-08-21 18:52
( Xinhua)

Shanghai exposes professional beggars


A man begs in a subway carriage in Shanghai in this Feb 10, 2011 file photo. [Gao Erqiang/Asianewsphoto] 

SHANGHAI- Police in Shanghai have published a list of beggars who have been caught most often on metro trains over the past four years, sparking debates about the problem of "professional" beggars.

Posted online last week by the Xujiahui police station of the Shanghai public security bureau urban rail and bus corps, a 22-year-old man, who has been caught 308 times, topped the list. An 88-year-old woman, caught 292 times, was runner-up.

Police officers have tried to help the beggars by sending them to rescue stations, while others would prefer not to be sent to them. The corps has investigated 9,006 cases between January 1 and August 10, with 962 beggars being sent to rescue stations.

It said that some "professional" beggars even rent their children to other "professional" beggars for about 200 yuan (about 31.75 U.S. dollars) per day. The child will be used to help beg in order to gain sympathy from the public.

Some "professional" beggars can make more than 1,000 yuan every day, far better than many white-collar workers, the corps said.

According to the law of punishment for public security and administration, police can detain those suspected of illegal begging activities, such as forcing others to give them money. However, Shanghai police said that it is hard to gather evidence as many citizens are not willing to testify.

According to the law, suspects who raise juveniles or look after those who are older than 70 will not be detained. Therefore, many children and old people are used by "professional" beggars to avoid punishment.

Additionally, they are usually well-organized. Once they have been stopped by police, they will contact fellow beggars via cell phones to help them avoid being caught.

Experts suggest the government should categorize the beggars and treat them properly according to their situation.

As for juveniles, mentally-ill, or those from outside the city who cannot make a living, the government should give them more support. But for the "professional" beggars who are too lazy to work, the government should have stricter regulations and restrictions, experts said.

Xie Xialing, professor on sociology at the Shanghai-based Fudan University, said the government can create special zones in the city for beggars to busk.

Xie said the government can provide some professional services to the beggars, such as setting up aid distribution stations to offer basic food and clothes and provide free vocational training.

Tang Xiaotian, vice secretary-general of Shanghai Law Society, said those who organize or force others to beg to make profit should be punished. Tang also said police should publish information about the "professional" beggars and the organizers in order to help people distinguish the real beggars from the fake ones.

Since the list was published, many took to Sina Weibo, a popular micro-blogging site, questioning whether the police have the right to publish such information.

"Cat eye" wrote that the police have infringed upon the beggars' privacy and damaged their dignity.

The police station replied on its official micro-blogging account that it has not revealed the names, photos or the home towns of the beggars and it is focusing on the so-called "professional" beggars -- the people who see begging as an occupation.

Internet users also said that publishing information can do nothing to deter "professional" begging but instead foster apathy towards those who are really in need.

"Ji Shichang" posted that the country should prohibit "professional" begging, but publishing is unfair to the real beggars.