BEIJING - The problems faced by homeless children and defects in the current system that is supposed to protect the vulnerable group were discussed on Wednesday at a meeting of officials from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
Related departments from more than 10 provinces and cities gathered in Beijing for the meeting, according to Dou Yupei, vice-minister of civil affairs, who spoke to Beijing News.
The ministry's publicity office refused to share any additional details when contacted by China Daily.
Han Hong, a popular singer who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), has proposed that the State should take on more responsibility for the protection of children and especially those who face difficulties and whose parents or legal guardians have failed to protect them.
She suggested that the central government could set up a special powerful department to take care of children's affairs, Xinhua News Agency reported.
The singer, who has been active in promoting child welfare, also called for the establishment of an intervention mechanism at the community level and urged administrative and judicial authorities to deal with the social problems that affect children.
Han also said the State should consider depriving parents and legal guardians of their rights to care for children if they are found to have harmed or abused them.
She has prepared a proposal that she expects to submit during the Fourth Session of the 11th National Committee of the CPPCC. That meeting starts on Thursday.
Han's expected proposal was welcomed by Liu Huawen, an associate researcher who specializes in the rights of children at the Institute of International Law under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"It's very necessary to set up a special government organ to work for children and safeguard children's welfare," Liu told China Daily on Wednesday, stressing that children comprise a considerable portion of the country's population.
Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that China had 246.6 million people under the age of 14 in 2009, 18.5 percent of the population.
At present, children's affairs are handled by the All-China Women's Federation, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and other governmental departments, which creates challenges in coordinating and planning initiatives, said Ma Li, the director of a rescue center for homeless children in Xuzhou city, Jiangsu province.
Ma said most homeless children keep running away after they are sent back to their homes.
He said he conducted random checks during the Spring Festival holidays on eight children who had been sent back to their homes after running away and found that only one child remained at home.
The issue of child protection has drawn increasing attention from the public and government since an online campaign was started in late January that was aimed at helping reunite child beggars with their families.
Premier Wen Jiabao said during his online chat with netizens at the weekend that he had asked the civil affairs and public security departments to work out comprehensive steps to better help homeless children and young beggars.