On Jan. 25, Professor Yu Jianrong of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences set up a microblog and called upon people to post snapshots of child beggars and orphans on streets, to enable parents of missing children to search for their kids.
Yu’s microblog has since received unprecedented support from Chinese bloggers, celebrities, and even public security offices in different areas – with close to half a million followers, and over one thousand photos posted.
Frenzy in Media
Cracking down on the abduction of children has since been a hot topic in Chinese media.
A case of seven child beggars who were rescued by police in Sanya City in Hainan Province was widely reported in the Chinese media. All seven children were from Mengtang Village, Taikang County, Henan Province; four of them had been hired by two child beggar ring leaders from the same County.
Hiring children, and then taking them to the street to solicit, is a well-developed business chain in Taikang County, a Feb. 17 Shanghai Evening Post report says. One of its Townships, Zhangji, is a famous “acrobat village.” Some parents of poor families in Taikang County have rented their children, under indenture contracts spanning several years, to owners of acrobatic teams or child beggar rings.
Negligence and Abuse
In March 2005, a seven-year-old girl named Zhu Qiuyue went missing while begging on the street. The girl’s boss, Zhai Xuefeng from Zhangji Township, paid her family 13,000 yuan (US$1,978). The girl’s mother, who refused to settle the case, reported Zhai to the Township’s local police. The police reportedly refused to take up the case.
Zhai Xuefeng is tied to two other crimes. On Dec. 24, 2009, a seven-year boy in Zhai’s acrobatic team was beaten to death, when the team performed on the streets of Guiping in Guangxi Province. A juvenile boy of the team was found guilty and sentenced to three years imprisonment. But the boy told Shanghai Evening Post that Zhai asked him to admit to the crime because a minor would get a lesser sentencing.
Zhai was also responsible for inflicting physical injuries on a girl in his acrobatic team during her contract from 2007 to 2009. Eight-year-old Ren Fengfeng told Chinese media that she was forced to solicit on the street since she was four-years-old; her boss Zhai Xuefeng would beat her with a leather belt; prick her with needles until she bled; throw her to the ground; cut her ears, nose, and tongue with a scissor if she failed to accomplish her mission. Zhai later paid Ren’s family 22,000 yuan (US$3,347) to settle the case.
Despite reports of the abuse, Zhai’s business continued unaffected and he continued to operate his acrobatic team-cum-child beggar ring.
Some children who perform acrobatic stunts don’t seem to mind the physical pain that comes with their street performance. For instance, photos of a boy wrapping a steel wire around another’s neck were posted to professor Yu’s microblog.
The boy with steel wire tightly coiled around his neck was in excruciating pain whenever he nodded to people to solicit money. But the two boys told Chongqing Daily News (cqnews.net) that it’s fun to come to Chongqing and that they were not anxious to go back to their hometown in Henan Province.
Only a small number of abducted children become child beggars on the street, according to Li Zhaohai, a police officer from Ha’erbin City, Heilongjiang Province, who has been handling missing children cases for the past 15 years. He told Phoenix News that many abducted children were sold to poor families in rural areas.
Li said that there’s a huge demand for abducted children due to China’s one child policy and the tradition of having offspring to carry on the family name.
However, it is extremely difficult to recover a child once the child has gone missing. Many parents blame the regime for not taking action against child abduction. Some parents were even forcibly silenced by the authorities when trying to take the matter into their own hands.
On Sept. 29 last year over 30 parents from Hebei, Jiangxi, Hubei, Guangdong and Fujian provinces held a large banner with photos of their missing children in Beijing, but were arrested and detained by police. One of the parents whose son had been missing for four years told The Epoch Times, “I have searched for my son so many years, but still no sign of him. The local government does not care.”
In April 2009, over 1,000 representatives of missing children’s parents from Dongguan of Guangdong Province took to the street after receiving no response for their demands to see the mayor. The local government sent riot police to disperse the parents, injuring several.
A Chinese blogger commented, “How could Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao still have the mood to make dumplings and have fun with the citizens? Without guarantee for children’s safety, how can there be harmony? This is what you should be concerned about!”