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Ninety suspects were arrested on charges of abducting Xinjiang children and coercing them to be thieves or robbers, the Ministry of Public Security said on Wednesday.
A total of 28 children were rescued in an operation launched by police in places involving Beijing, Jilin, Guangdong, Shaanxi and Xinjiang in October, according to a statement issued by the ministry.
The police busted 12 gangs on Oct 30.
Police said the gangs are suspected of kidnapping children in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and forcing them to commit crimes such as theft in major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Changchun in Jilin province, and Changsha in Hunan province.
Suspected gang members "beat, abused or threatened" these young children to force them to steal and rob in public places, such as shopping centers, underpasses, and railway stations, Huang Shihai, spokesman for the ministry, said on Wednesday.
The children will be sent home as soon as possible, Huang said.
The operation is a part of a campaign to crack down on abduction of children that the ministry launched in April 2011 and will be complete by the end of this year.
Police have arrested 2,749 suspects believed to be involved in abducting and coercing minors from Xinjiang since the launch of the campaign, according to the ministry.
Police have rescued 2,274 children in the campaign.
Gangsters choose Xinjiang children partly because police have trouble investigating these children due to language barriers, said Dai Peng, director of the criminal investigation department under the Chinese People's Public Security University.
Hong Daode, law professor of China University of Political Science and Law, said the fundamental problems lie in poor education and social security networks in the ethnic areas.
"Government authorities, such as civil affairs and social security departments, should take more concrete action to satisfy the basic needs of the local children in the ethnic areas," he said.
Ablikim, a Uygur volunteer, has worked as an interpreter for police to rescue vagrant children from Xinjiang since 2007.
The 28-year-old said that, based on his experience, most of the vagrant children were from poor families in Xinjiang who dropped out of school. Human traffickers tricked children to come to cities outside Xinjiang, promising to help them make a fortune, and later forced these children to beg or pick pockets.
"It has become a profitable industry," he said. "Every child has to get back a certain amount of money or the boss may hit him or her."
The volunteer urged the government to adopt a comprehensive approach to prevent more children from Xinjiang from ending up on the streets.
He called for the provision of better education and employment opportunities for Xinjiang children, especially those in the less developed south part.
He also suggested authorities in Xinjiang establish more vocational schools and training institutions to help rescued children land a job.
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