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Rescue shelter denies assault accusations

Updated: 2013-01-11 01:18
By WEN XINZHENG in Changsha and AN BAIJIE in Beijing ( China Daily)

The managers of a shelter for the homeless in Hunan province on Thursday denied allegations that its staff assaulted an undercover journalist.

Dai Peng, a reporter for the Sanxiang Metropolis Daily, said workers at Changsha Homeless Shelter attacked him on Monday night after he was transferred there by police.

Rescue shelter denies assault accusations

Li Guting, a 51-year-old vagrant, lies on a stretcher with his legs tied tightly together at Changsha Homeless Shelter in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, on Monday night. Li Feng, director of the shelter’s general office, said the man was mentally disabled and police had handcuffed him in case he was violent. [Photo/China Daily] 

Dai had been posing as a vagrant to investigate the treatment of homeless people in Hunan's provincial capital Changsha and to find out why so many prefer to sleep outside in freezing conditions rather than seek help from authorities.

Shortly after his arrival at the shelter, Dai said he was pushed to the ground and hit on the head and feet. He was also prevented from leaving until a worker called his father to confirm his identity, he said.

The newspaper published his story on Wednesday along with a photograph of an elderly vagrant, 51-year-old Li Guting. The photo shows Li was on the floor of the shelter with his hands and legs tightly bound. His shoes have also been removed.

The picture was taken by another reporter, who arrived to take Dai home, the paper reported.

The shelter responded to the claims on Wednesday by releasing surveillance footage online that shows a man being held to the ground by three workers, but no other physical confrontation.

Li Feng, director of the shelter's general office, said the men had taken measures to control Dai, as they believed he may have had a weapon.

He also said the elderly man was mentally disabled, and police had handcuffed him in case he was violent.

However, the journalist told China Daily on Thursday that he was only carrying a small digital voice recorder.

"I'm angry," Dai said. "Not for the brutal treatment I received, but for that of numerous homeless people. The shelter has not apologized yet."

Huang Zhimou, director of Changsha Homeless Shelter, insisted on Thursday that his workers had not violated any rules in treating homeless people.

Employees sometimes need to take self-defense measures because some homeless people have mental problems, he said.

Dai's report triggered public anger, with many people criticizing the authorities for negligence toward homeless people.

Some netizens, such as popular micro-blogger Deng Fei, who initiated a charity program to give free lunches to rural students, have since called on Changsha Homeless Shelter to reveal how it spent the 8 million yuan ($1.28 million) it received from the government last year.

Yang Gengshen, a commentator, said rescue centers should not only give homeless people food and a bed, but also respect.

"The rescue station should not be a place where homeless people are reluctant to go," he said.

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