Network to track vagrants to start
A national information system to better track vagrants and beggars will be launched early next year.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security have jointly developed a vagrant information management system linked to the household registration management systems across the country.
Trial operation will begin in April next year and official operation will begin on August 1 to mark the second anniversary of the introduction of the Measures on Aid and Management of Urban Vagrants and Beggars.
The new information system will help vagrants and lost people find their home as soon as possible and distinguish the real homeless and helpless from people who just take advantage of free food and other aid, said Zhang Mingliang, director of the Department of Construction of Basic-Level Government and Community under the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
"More efforts are needed to make the aid reach the needy more quickly and efficiently," said Zhang yesterday at a working conference in Beijing.
By the end of November, the country's 909 aid stations and centres had provided help to more than 670,000 urban vagrants and beggars, including more than 114,000 children and youngsters and roughly 130,000 elderly people, official statistics show.
Among the beggars, there are an increasing number of street children who run away from home or are forced to work or beg for criminal gangs, Zhang said.
For example, Xiao Jiang, a 14-year-old boy, got addicted to online computer games and ran away from home after stealing money from his parents in Lianyungang of East China's Jiangsu Province earlier this year.
He wandered in the province for months and suffered from starvation and illness until aid workers found him and helped him back home.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs has earmarked 25 million yuan (US$3 million) this year to establish special aid centres for street children.
There were at least 150,000 street children under the age of 16 in each of the past three years, according to statistics from the ministry.
Many aid stations for vagrants including those in Hebei, Guangdong, Shandong, Hubei and Henan provinces have established special centres for street children.
Other puzzles confronting civil affairs officials is a proclivity among some homeless people to continue roaming the streets instead of going to shelters, posing a potential threat to cities' security, Zhang said.
The country introduced the Measures on Aid and Management of Urban Vagrants and Beggars in 2003. The programme is based on free aid to urban vagrants to replace the two-decade-old Regulation on Detention and Deportation of Vagrants and Beggars which was regarded as a human rights violation because it took away people's freedom.