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New regulation in Dalian beggars belief
By Zheng Yanyan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-13 06:17

DALIAN: A debate has fired up in this northeastern city over a regulation that could potentially restrict the movements of beggars.

The municipal government on Sunday passed a regulation in principle on the management of begging.

One part of the regulation in particular, which forbids beggars from coming within 100 metres of municipal-level Party and government body buildings and military areas, is at the epicentre of the controversy.

Many believe the regulation is a violation of people's right to free movement.

If implemented, similar begging bans would then be imposed on areas near communication centres, highways, public squares, three-star hotels and above, tourist resorts and shopping malls.

The regulation was proposed to strengthen the management of beggars and maintain social order, Yang Fubin, head of the Department of Social Welfare Affairs under the Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau, told China Daily.

Dalian set up relief stations last August to lend assistance to the homeless.

A few beggars have accepted help, but many have refused to take the city up on its offer and continue to beg to make ends meet.

Statistics from the municipal Salvation Management Station show that professional beggars make up 80 per cent of those on the street.

"These beggars brought with them many related social problems," Yang said.

The regulation restricting the area in which people can lawfully beg is yet to be officially issued and its specific details remain under discussion, he revealed.

But the regulation does not only concern restrictions on begging, in it are many rules providing assistance to the homeless, Yang said.

"The move is considered more from the angle of the government's interests and not its social benefits," said Ai Lijuan, an expert with the School of Humanities and Social Sciences under Dalian University of Technology, adding that the two aspects are in conflict to some degree.

"These people need more care rather than being more controlled," she said.

The root of the problem is the country's imperfect social welfare system and it cannot be solved overnight, she said.

However, Shi Yijun, a professor with the Political Science and Administration College under Liaoning Normal University, does not share Ai's view.

"The rule is necessary, although it can't solve the problem from its root," said Shi.

The beggars, especially the more lazy ones, impair the city's image, she said in a telephone interview with China Daily.

A beggar surnamed Shu, who panhandles on Renmin Road, a vital commercial belt in the city, said that if the rules were implemented, he would go back to his hometown in Gansu Province.

A female beggar surnamed Shi, around 20 years old, begs about 100 metres from the five-star Furama Hotel.

Holding her one-year-old baby in her arms, she admitted she would not know what to do if the rules were implemented.

(China Daily 05/13/2005 page3)

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