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Fakes on the take
( 2003-08-15 15:45) (Shanghai Star)

The crowds of pedestrians on Huaihai Zhonglu in Shanghai City earlier this month would have seen a young woman kneeling down on the footpath at a bus stop near Lippo Plaza. A note in front of her tells passers-by that she cannot find a job in the city and wants to collect some money so that she can go home.

When Shanghai Star reporter Lu Chang talked with her, the woman said her name was Wang Xiaofang and she came from Southwest China's Yunnan Province.

She said she had lost touch with her sister, named Xiaofei, who was supposed to be a tailor in Shanghai. Now, she said, she had to sleep in the open in People's Square and she had to beg to get some money to buy a train ticket back home.

However, in 15 minutes conversation with this reporter, she said her name was Wang Xiaofei, she had no relatives in Shanghai, she couldn't find a job, 300 yuan (US$36) would be enough for her to buy a train ticket to go back home and she was staying in the home of a friend who lived near Shanghai Railway Station.

More and more beggars seem to be making a living in the city but just kneeling down, stretching out a hand and begging for a coin doesn't appear to be as effective as it used to be. Most beggars now are trying to disguise themselves by giving themselves new identities. But although they may not always look like a beggar, their aim remains the same: they are still begging for money.

By playing some tricks and using a little deception, their income can be much better and their face can be saved a little so why not coin their brains?

Fake monk

Before the extremely high temperatures hit the city a few weeks ago, there always used to be an old "monk" in yellow robes standing at the entrance of Huangpi Nanlu station on Metro Line 1.

The entrance, located in front of the Pacific Shopping Centre, has a big flow of pedestrians every day. The old "monk", who had a very kind face, would smile and murmur "Amitabha" in a low voice to every passer-by.

"If you see such people, don't give them money," said an official with the Shanghai Nationality and Religion Committee. "According to our research, almost all of these monks are not real Buddhists."

Real monks won't beg for alms in the street or visit people's houses. The temples are where donations are accepted.

Fake monks can probably be found all over China. Last June, police in Guizhou Province caught five monks and two nuns who were begging alms in the street. Of the seven, two were father and son and one "nun" was the father's daughter-in-law.

"We have heard too many such stories of racketeers around the country. So never believe such monks or Buddhist nuns," the official said.

'Poor' girls

Young women "nobblers" are more inclined to disguise themselves as young girls who claim to be too poor to continue their education or who say they need money to go back home.

Our friend begging on Huaihai Zhonglu, "Wang Xiaofei" or "Wang Xiaofang" - two names but one girl - is one such woman.

During our conversation, two women threw five or six yuan into her bowl.

No matter whether they're "Xiaofang" or "Xiaofei", the common characteristics of this type of phoney beggar are: shoulder a schoolbag, kneel down on the footpath, have a miserable story written down on paper, look honest and shy, sometimes weep loudly.

In the past month, three such women have appeared on Huaihai Zhonglu near Lippo Plaza. One young woman said she came from a poverty-stricken region and had no money to go to school. So she had come to Shanghai to collect money during the summer holiday. This was also the story written on the paper before her on the footpath.

Another one told a similar story to the one related by "Wang Xiaofei" or "Wang Xiaofang".


If you pass Fudan University on Handan Lu, you may still meet a "deaf-mute" who begs for two yuan to catch a bus to a hospital to visit his mother.

"During my four years at the university, I met this man - who could only shout 'wa wa' at me - three times and each time he gave the same reason for money," said Xu Jing, a Fudan graduate.

Generally speaking, people who are deaf-mute can show people a small card setting out their history.

"The first time, I gave him one yuan because disabled people always win people's sympathy. But when I met him for the second and third time, I knew I was being cheated. Who knows if he is really deaf or not?" Xu said.

Such "disabled" people seeking help seems to be on the rise lately. On the Metro, two girl "students" have appeared who show cards saying they are students from a deaf-mute school. The cards then ask you buy some small ornaments.

In KFC restaurants, other "deaf-mute" women touch the shoulders of customers suddenly and hope they will buy fortune-telling cards.

Sheer cheaters

Here is another excellent example from Dalian in Liaoning Province: a farmer from Anhui Province had used paper brushed with red ink to make his left leg look like it was seriously injured.

According to the Dalian Evening News, this trick won him a good income every day until his subterfuge was discovered by police.

Zhu Wenguang, an official from Shanghai's Huangpu District Police Bureau said that "only a small proportion of beggars are genuine cases".

"According to our experience, most beggars haven't any difficulty in making a living. Some older ones take to begging as a job to kill time and earn money. And some others - they are just cheaters," Zhu said.

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