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Deaf theft gang members convicted in east China
Updated: 2004-04-19 15:35

The 12 members of a theft gang who were all deaf were given jail terms ranging from 11 months to 13 years, according to the court in Shaoxing City, east China's Zhejiang Province.

A special sign language interpreter was present in the court to "translate" the 37-page written judgment, which took about half an hour.

The ringleaders of the gang, including Yang Song and Xia Kun, were also convicted of harboring stolen goods.

According to the court, a juvenile deaf thief was caught in a grocery in Shaoxing County, Shaoxing City, on Feb. 11, 2003. He told police gang members were involved in over 60 theft cases, which led to the establishment of a special investigation group of police to probe into the deaf gang.

Yang Song, 34 and gang head, was arrested on May 20, 2003 and other 10 people were taken into custody later.

According to court officials, all thieves were deaf and almost illiterate receiving no higher than elementary education. Most were under 20 and were jobless vagrants.

Yang set up the deaf gang as early as Oct. 10, 2001 and it had as many as over 20 members in its most prosperous time. Yang controlled members using his strict and harsh rules, for example, beating, punching or burning with a cigarette butt, or forced headstands lasting two to three hours.

The members were instructed how and where to steal. They usually stole in shops, drug stores and supermarkets, according to the Intermediate People's Court of Shaoxing which gave lighter punishments because of disability and cooperative confession, court officials said.

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