The Bizarre Backlash Against Yu Jianrong’s Child Beggar Campaign

Kinda recently, we (and every other news source on the face of the earth) posted about Sina microblogging account Prof. Yu Jianrong set up for reposting photos of beggar children. At the time, the campaign was rapidly gaining momentum, the Chinese media was all over it, and Sina was making special efforts to build up followers on Yu Jianrong’s account.

Then, perhaps inevitably, came the backlash. A number of prominent Chinese bloggers (i.e. hecaitou) and writers published pieces condemning, in one way or another, Yu’s campaign. The hype and the Sina promotion stopped. His followers started to come more slowly. Now, there are even rumors that he’s been told not to accept interviews or talk to the media (multiple calls to his office to request an interview with him for our film have thus far been fruitless).

So why have people soured on this campaign, and why are some so against it? It is deeply unclear. Let us examine, for example, a Global Times editorial on the subject.

The recent successful rescue of a kidnapped child has sparked a nationwide netizens-led campaign to crack down on the trafficking of children. However, despite its lofty goal, the campaign has unexpectedly resulted in many homeless families being wrongfully targeted, or family members being separated.

This is an interesting claim, and it seems to be as dubious as the claims that the campaign has rescued six children so far ((There seem to only be specific reports about two children, and Peng Gaofeng’s reunion with his son was not directly related to the campaign)). To date, I have seen one example in the news of a parent who was forced to take a DNA test to prove their child was theirs as a result of the campaign. I have not seen a single report of families being “separated.” Moreover, “wrongfully targeted” is a needlessly loaded phrase.

The article goes on to make some good points; namely that netizens cannot resolve this issue, and that the serious police work should be left to the police. No argument there. But:

The real side effects of the online campaign against child abductions have barely been mentioned in the media, which is overwhelmingly applauding the effectiveness of the blog-based effort. A few well-known scholars have actually privately voiced their concerns of this campaign, but they seem reluctant to openly express their views.

This is remarkably vague. Apparently, the “real side effects” of the campaign really aren’t being reported in the media, because it seems even the Global Times editors aren’t willing to actually say what they are.

Then, the article takes an especially weird turn:

The Internet has played an irreplaceable role in advancing political democracy in China, but its negative aspects should also be noted. The Internet campaign against child abductions has illustrated the “autocracy” of the online opinion, which tends to mute any dissident voices. Quite contrary to the diversified viewpoints in the traditional media, it seems that online media has adopted the old-style censorship by the media of the past. A few activists have now dominated the public opinion seen online. And to some extent, freedom of speech has been suppressed online.

For the healthy development of China’s Internet, a rational and tolerant atmosphere of public opinion is needed. Emotional and moody expressions ought not to become the mainstream on the Internet. The supervision of online public figures is as necessary as in the real world.

Again, there is no actual indication of how the internet campaign has “muted” dissident voices. Given that noted bloggers have come out against the campaign, and that most major mainstream papers have run pieces similar to this piece in the GT, it is utterly ridiculous to suggest that dissident voices are being “censored”.

(As a side note, I find it amusing that the Global Times editors apparently don’t know the difference between “censored” and “drowned out”. Just because a lot of people on the net agree about something doesn’t mean those who oppose it are being “censored”.)

And of course, for those who are feeling this still sounds overly reasonable for a Global Times editorial, there’s this kicker:

Chinese society has paid heavily for lessons over ideological clashes. Similar tragedies must be prevented in the cyber world.

Subtle! “If you people don’t stop taking photos of child beggars you’re going to make the Cultural Revolution happen again!”

Anyway, mocking a GT editorial is admittedly the low-hanging fruit on the saggiest branch of the shortest tree in the forest, so lets get down to business.

The main reason people seem to oppose the campaign is that it has resulted in the “harassment” of beggars and their children. While I agree that people don’t have a right to harass beggars, I disagree that being photographed and very, very rarely being subjected to DNA testing once qualifies as “harassment.”

As far as being photographed, that could certainly get annoying, but it’s not harassment, and it’s something anyone has to be willing to accept if they’re going to spend time in public places in China. Personally, I get photographed without permission by random strangers from time to time when I visit more far-flung places in China where foreigners don’t often go. Yes, it is slightly irksome. But it’s not a huge problem. When you’re in a public place, being photographed is always a possibility, and in China, it’s an absolute inevitability given the millions of surveillance cameras that cover cities from every imaginable angle. In any event, the slight annoyance of being photographed in public ought to be more than offset by the possibility that that photograph could potentially help unite a parent with their stolen child.

More understandable are concerns that beggars are being wrongfully dragged into police stations for interrogations and DNA testing. If beggars with children found themselves being dragged down to the station once a week and held there for hours, I would understand this concern. But that isn’t what’s happening. A small minority of beggars have been tested, and I haven’t heard of a single case of anyone being tested twice. Moreover, DNA tests can be done with simple swabs, so there’s no reason the tests should take up more than 10-15 seconds of a beggar’s time.

Now, in all likelihood, some police are arresting beggars and dragging them into police stations for extensive questioning because that’s how Chinese police tend to operate. But that has nothing to do with the “rescue child beggars” campaign, it’s an enforcement issue. Condemning the campaign because the police’s methods of dealing with it are inefficient and unjust is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. If the enforcement of DNA testing is harassment, that means they’re doing it wrong. It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done. Of course, let’s continue to keep in mind that DNA testing has been forced on a tiny, tiny, tiny minority of beggar families.

Moreover, the whole argument implies that adult beggars who are the legitimate blood parents of the children they beg with have an inalienable right to beg with their children. That strikes me as kind of nuts.

To be fair, the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child is fairly vague. And given Chinese culture’s long emphasis on the deep and important bond between parents and their sons children, I can understand why people would be uncomfortable with the idea of the State confiscating people’s children. Frankly, the idea of the State doing just about anything makes me uncomfortable.

But there’s this:

Article 27

1. States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.

2. The parent(s) or others responsible for the child have the primary responsibility to secure, within their abilities and financial capacities, the conditions of living necessary for the child’s development.

3. States Parties, in accordance with national conditions and within their means, shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.

It seems to me that if parents are begging with their children, they cannot possibly be providing “a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.” And in many cases, of course, the kids’ presence on the streets is also proof that they’re being deprived of their right to a proper education.

I don’t believe that beggars should be harassed. But at the same time, I don’t believe that there is anything about the Weibo campaign that constitutes harassment. I also don’t believe that many of these commentators actually give a damn about the comfort or rights of beggars, a group of people that none of them were talking about a month ago.

So what’s going on? A couple things. First, there’s the natural, contrarian reaction that some people often have when something becomes popular overnight. But the bigger theme, I think, plays out pretty clearly in the Global Times article I quoted from above. The government — and its army of media spin artists — have realized the dangerous precedent this campaign sets. People are completely circumventing all State authority and addressing a social problem directly. I think someone up top realized that while it may be good in this case, that’s not a model for social change that the government can afford to let become popular. They can’t just shut down the campaign, of course — I think even the tonedeaf PR folks at the PRC know that would be a disaster — but they can chip away at it in the media, raising doubts.

And, of course, it’s good for people to be raising questions; no movement like this should be allowed to go unquestioned or unchecked. But the questions some people are asking aren’t productive, logical, or really grounded in any kind of fact.

Speaking of not grounded in fact, another big argument against the campaign is that in reality, there are very few child beggars who were kidnapped because kidnapping a child, crippling them, and forcing them to beg offers high risk and low rewards; it would be easier just to sell the child you kidnapped directly to a family, which net you an immediate lump of cash.

While no one knows the exact percentage of street kids that are kidnapped, suggesting that there aren’t any — or that that isn’t a lucrative business — simply is not true. Consider, for example, this story from the SCMP ((Sorry I don’t have a link, I’m not a subscriber, someone emailed me the text of the story.)):

China National Radio reported early this week that begging had been treated as a profitable business in Gongxiao and nearby villages for decades, and that farmers had begun to seek healthy young children in other areas as potential beggars from 1993.

Elderly villagers told the radio network that children either kidnapped or deceived away from their parents would be abused and disabled before being taken to big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to beg.

The children would be maltreated during a fortnight to a month’s training at ringleaders’ homes.

“Kids will be locked in cages like animals at night, in order to make them obey their ringleaders. They will be beaten cruelly if they resist,” the report said, citing villagers.

“To make these child beggars look more pitiful so they’ll be able to beg for more money, kids will be forced to hang their legs around their necks. Many children couldn’t do that, and ringleaders will pull and twist kids’ legs to their necks, making them disabled.”

Villagers said many ringleaders cut the children’s faces and limbs, or used sulphuric acid to disfigure their faces and make them look more pitiful.

“Child beggars will be fed in the morning and left on streets to beg, while ringleaders will wait and watch secretly nearby. Child beggars will be beaten up and not given any food if they cannot beg enough to satisfy their ringleaders, who can make good money by controlling several child beggars,” villagers said.

Shanghai’s Oriental Morning Post cited the village’s former party boss [as saying] that a ringleader could earn up to 200,000 yuan (HK$236,000) a year by forcing disabled children to beg, and some village cadres were also involved. A farmer in Fuyang, by contrast, earns about 1,500 yuan a year.

Another worthwhile comparison to make would be that a kidnapped child, when directly sold to a new family, brings in around 5,000-15,000 RMB, part of which the kidnapper must give to the middlemen who make such arrangements and find families looking to buy. Younger, healthier boys obviously go for more than older boys or girls of any age, but a trafficker making more than 15,000 selling a child is, according to my understanding, rare. It’s not difficult to see how the appeal of making 200,000 a year would lead some traffickers to consider alternatives.

Moreover, the people on the ground — the ones who deal with street kids every day, the ones who cared about this issue before one month ago — are telling us that the majority of the street kids they see have been kidnapped. In the absence of hard numbers on either side, I’m inclined to trust the seasoned professionals over these columnists and bloggers who don’t interact with street kids on a daily basis.

Months of research for our film has led me to one conclusion: there are children who have been kidnapped and forced into begging. Period. Exactly what percent of child beggars they make up is unclear. They’re not a huge majority, but they are not insignificant, either.

If rescuing kidnapped kids requires inconveniencing a few beggars with DNA tests when parents think they recognize their lost loved ones, that’s a sacrifice society should be willing to make. And if the beggars affected really are parents, I suspect they will understand that there is no length a parent won’t go to to rescue their child.

There’s more to say on this issue, but this post is already way, way too long, so I’ll leave the rest out for now.

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0 thoughts on “The Bizarre Backlash Against Yu Jianrong’s Child Beggar Campaign”

  1. “If rescuing kidnapped kids requires inconveniencing a few beggars with DNA tests when parents think they recognize their lost loved ones, that’s a sacrifice society should be willing to make. And if the beggars affected really are parents, I suspect they will understand that there is no length a parent won’t go to to rescue their child.”

    I can’t help but find this paragraph a bit disturbing. Is inconveniencing beggars and taking there DNA ok because they are ‘only’ beggars? would it be less acceptable to inconvenience nice middle class people and take their DNA in order to solve all sorts of crimes or gather all sorts of useful information on people.

    I wonder if the child kidnapping industry extends beyond this beggar community perhaps stolen children have ended up in the hands of nice wealthy modern Chinese families. I am just speculating but I would not be at all surprised if this had happened in this mind boggling country.

    So why not just inconvenience everyone and get everyones DNA, I would definitely trust the Chinese Govt to use it for the greater good and to create a more harmonious society for us all.

    Bottom line, I don’t think anyone should be forced to submit DNA unless there is reliable presentable evidence of wrong doing, especially not to the untrustworthy, lying, corrupt Chinese authorities.

    I get my photo taken all the time by nosey, invasive, ill-mannered Chinese people all the time and yes it is ‘irksome’ but I am just a laowai guesting in China not sitting on the cold hard corner of the street in abject conditions, completely destitute, begging. To be honest I’d feel pretty violated if someone was taking shots of me if I was in that situation whatever their motivation.

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  2. And of course, for those who are feeling this still sounds overly reasonable for a Global Times editorial, there’s this kicker:

    Chinese society has paid heavily for lessons over ideological clashes. Similar tragedies must be prevented in the cyber world.

    You mean that faux jasmine revolution which is running websites that are located in the US?

    As far as being photographed, that could certainly get annoying, but it’s not harassment, and it’s something anyone has to be willing to accept if they’re going to spend time in public places in China.

    Just don’t tell the FBI it is not harassment to take pictures.

    http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2010/06/attorney_larry_hildes_and_week.php

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  3. I just think that this whole idea that assumes that people steal other’s children and using them to become beggars while forcing them for a DNA test will fix the problem is just plain ludicrous. First of all, can’t the police go to the parent and ask the the Child’s birth certificate or identity card would be a cheaper way? I don’t believe the propaganda that SCMP sells, so I don’t consider that as a reliable source. I would say that child exploitation is not so bad compared to other countries, say Indonesia.

    http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/101east/2010/03/201031813502139505.html

    Third, while I think your effort to combat child abductions is admirable, shouldn’t we follow Western Models on the tried and true ways on how to combat them instead instead of forcing everybody to have an DNA test? Even in the US, Child Abductions is a problem that is hard to solve also.

    http://www.klaaskids.org/pg-mc-mcstatistics.htm

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  4. @ stripypattern: I agree. I think that ANYONE accused of stealing a child by the parents of said lost child should submit to DNA testing. Why not? It’s quick and painless, and assuming they didn’t steal the child, it ends all doubt of them forever. It’s something everyone should be willing to do, from beggars to millionaires. I’m talking about beggars here because that’s who everyone says the issue is affecting. But if this were happening to the middle class, I’d be saying the same thing.

    Of course there are children who are kidnapped and sold to families both wealthy and poor. It’s a well-documented phenomenon, and my guess is that when people are accused, the police ask those families to take DNA tests, too. As they should.

    I see your point about getting photographed, but again, you’re willing to let stolen children be raised by gangs of kidnappers to make sure that people’s feelings don’t get hurt?

    @pug_ster: Yeah. You know as a result of this story the FBI sent a memo out to everyone reminding their agents, police, etc. that it’s legal to take photographs in public places, and that cameras, film, data cards, etc. cannot be confiscated, right?

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  5. No you don’t agree because I don’t think ANYONE who is accused of any crime that can be either proved or disproved by DNA testing should HAVE to submit to DNA testing, for lots of reasons.

    Who is to say that the authorities wouldn’t go on to use the DNA to frame someone for a crime?

    Who is to say that DNA would not be shared with corporations and insurance companies?

    Who is to say that your DNA might be used in prejudice against you or your children or their children in the future?

    A mere accusation is not enough to warrant having to give up your DNA. Many people, myself included, in the right circumstances would be open to submitting DNA if it could help solve a crime but I would personally need to know that my DNA would not then be used or even recorded once the results proved my innocence.

    You would need to do more than accuse me of something to get me to willingly submit to a DNA test because frankly I don’t trust the authorities here or there. I wouldn’t expect a beggar to feel any different.

    I don’t know about you but in my time in China I’ve seen wealthy people treated very differently to poor people and I’d say it’s pretty naive to imagine that they would be treated in relation to this subject equally with a wealthy person accused of similar crimes.

    I would say that to defend a beggars or anyones right to refuse a DNA test because of a finger pointing accusation goes far beyond the lives of the victims of child abduction.

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  6. sorry mr. custer, but pr. 于建嵘 normally don’t take interviews from medias like you.

    提问:比如这个规范,规定了律师不能接受外国记者采访,必须要合伙人回避,必须要向司法局和当地司法局备案等等,那怎么办?

      于建嵘:那有什么问题呢。我认为不接受外国人采访是对的,我同意。我们何必给自己惹麻烦嘛!我从来不接受外国记者采访。凡是外国记者打电话给我,我一定说没时间。如果外国记者打电话到我们单位去,说我们要采访于建嵘,我们领导人肯定告诉他找不到我。你外国人找我必须经过院里面批准,而且还必须正式文件告诉我,不然我不见。不见对我没有损失,对你有损失。(笑)。所以我倒建议这种问题我们不要和它纠缠,没有必要纠缠。在今天中国有时候做律师也好,做社会人士也好,做所谓公共知识分子也好,你还是要有一个自我保护的底线。

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  7. @ stripypattern: right, but now we’re talking about enforcement issues. I didn’t say people should be forced to submit to DNA testing, I just said they should submit to DNA testing. Police should only be asking under the circumstances they’ve checked photos and the child in question really does resemble the missing child, or there is some other reason to believe the child was stolen. But if the parents refuse, there should be a process to get a warrant for the DNA test. I’m not suggesting we just all hand the Chinese government our DNA, and I respect your paranoia, I just think that condemning the whole campaign to help these kids because the government might wrongfully steal your DNA for fun and sell it to someone is ridiculous. That’s a problem, but it ISN’T a problem with the Weibo campaign, so why are these things being blamed on Weibo users rather than corrupt cops, a lax legal system, and a government that doesn’t care about privacy rights?

    (I know the answer to that question, obviously, just making a point is all).

    @jsyang: That is interesting, but he had initially agreed to speak with us. There are special regulations for dealing with the “foreign media” but we aren’t the “foreign media”, we’re an independent volunteer group. The effect is pretty similar to if we were foreign media, but I’m saying that legally speaking, there is a distinction. People who work for the foreign press here have registered and have official reporter credentials, etc. We don’t have any of that, and a good percentage of our volunteer team is Chinese (including the people who contacted his office).

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  8. Charles, I agree mostly with what you’re saying, but I think it’s more than just enforcement issues.

    If the police here (or anywhere) politely asked me to submit my DNA for testing, I would have no problem doing that provided the authorities involved were 100% accountable, transparent and honest with what they were going to do with it. I would also need to know with absolute certainty that my DNA sample, and the records produced from it would be completely destroyed after being used for the investigation.

    We all know how accountable, transparent, and reliable the government here is. These are far more than just enforcement issues, these issues run to the very heart of the way things work here.

    Yes I share your idealism that in a perfect China, people should submit to having their DNA tested, for they wouldn’t have to worry about it being used for Orwellian purposes after the fact. Unfortunately, we’re a real long way from that.

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  9. C.Custer, I hear you. I did get from the tone of your article that it might be outrageous, especially for someone with as much time on their hands as a beggar to refuse DNA testing and it’s not.

    I’m not as worried about my DNA as I may have made myself out to be. I’m perfectly sure I handed all that and more over, when I had my medical exam for my residency permit, in fact I’m probably being cloned as I type. I think for many people it’s simply a rational privacy issue and I agree with them.

    Anyway, the whole defending the right of the beggar to refuse a DNA test is really not that central to this subject especially in China where rights of beggars are the very last thing on the minds of the government.

    The reason I believe there has been what you perceive to be a bizarre backlash to an earnest campaign to reunite stolen children to their parents, is far more likely to be because this child abduction problem, amongst other things, might well be a bi-product of the one child policy.

    Further investigation by these Chinese blogs will likely reveal more of the cruelties that the State here forces upon its people, to its people and just how widespread they are. They smartly want to curtail this and prevent discord or worse.

    The actual campaign to reunite the lost children is of no concern to the Communist Party, they couldn’t give a damn about it. It’s the repercussions of the people finding out just why there is this problem in the first place, that they fear surfacing and what that might lead to.

    The beggars and children are really not the story just the easiest most tangible target. The story and the problem is everything up from them. You know this though.

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  10. How about the cost of an DNA Test? It cost at least at around $100 US, which cost alot in China, probably at least cost twice as much for administrative paperwork and creating some kind of national database. How about the getting the people who is qualified to do it in China cheaply?

    I recall in the US there was a case when a woman who stole a Child, raising her until the child became suspicious that her fake mother does not have her birth certificate. Can’t the Chinese government ask for this kind of proof to make it less intrusive?

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  11. Pingback: Anonymous
  12. @Custer and jsyang:

    What exactly is 于建嵘的 obsession with process? Is it ideological — i.e., foreign interference? Or is it that he could be punished by the school for not going through the process?

    【翻译】于建嵘为什么那么重视于大学对于记者采访的规定?问题在于意识形态的方面?还是于教授怕若是不经过正式的规则,他可能被惩罚?

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  13. I smell gang involvement. Why would anyone oppose the thought of these children finding their parents and going home?

    Because it’s highly profitable to keep them begging, until they reach of age where they’re too old to look the part, and they’d be abandoned, or killed.

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  14. @ pug_ster: I agree. I mean, it’s good to save stolen children and all, but come on, spending $300 to save stolen children? That’s a waste of taxpayer money.

    I mean, if the government invests money in that, how are they going to pay for all those guys who beat up human rights lawyers? It’s all about priorities…

    In seriousness, though, yes, the police could also ask for a birth certificate; the problem is, that stuff is easy to fake. If there was a way to make it counterfeit-proof, then that would work, but right now, it’s just too easy. Gangleaders and families who bought children have fake birth certificates and other official forms from the 办证 people in the gang they bought from.

    The reason to use DNA is that (as far as we know so far) it’s impossible to fake.

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  15. perhaps this whole stolen children turn beggar thing is more or less of a urban myth, have you ever thought of that?

    臆想的产物

      根据于建嵘教授自述,行动起因为一位被拐儿童家长的求救。但是,“随手拍”能够迅速得到广泛响应,应有广泛深厚的社会心理基础。据专栏评论人和菜头的看法,打击拐卖儿童活动的情感爆发点,来自于这样一句话:“叔叔,你还是用刀子割我吧,硫酸实在是太疼了”,可见,被披露出来的乞讨儿童的惨状、与家长所倾诉的被拐卖家庭的心理创伤,以及两者的结合,乃是“随手拍解救乞讨儿童”行动得以引爆的核心,不幸的是,这一结合并无坚实的事实基础。

      走在都市的街头,随处可见儿童乞丐,其中不乏难分真伪的残疾儿,而根据统计资料,中国每年竟有高达20万的被拐儿童,这很容易让人将两者联系起来。报章上不时渲染的乞讨致富的故事,更加强了这一联想。

      但是,由于中国社会福利的现状,下层百姓不得不把后半生的希望寄托在“养儿防老”,这才是被拐儿童的去向所在。根据一些媒体的最新披露,所谓乞讨致富也多属虚妄,至于所谓致残行乞,需要较高的医学水平,更不容易发生。

    http://www.zaobao.com/yl/yl110221_002.shtml

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  16. btw, there’s no shortage of disabled children from the countryside. children in such conditions are often used as beggars by their family or relatives to gather income,things like this goes back centuries, there’s nothing new about it. it may sound cruel, but this maybe the only way to make them useful for the family.

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  17. Urban myth or not, the point I think we should not forget is that SOME of the kids on the street are “borrowed” from families and some of those, likely many of those are not really done with express permission from the parents. But regardless of whether the parents approve of this treatment, someone needs to step in to protect these kids if the parents cannot or will not, not only to prevent their victimization, but also to maintain the harmony of the society. Erring on the side protecting the kids is not a bad thing, urban myth possibility or not.

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  18. At the very core of this issue is people taking the internet way too seriously. Same deal with popular beliefs, “public opinion” etc.

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  19. @C_Custer,

    Forging birth certificates? That’s the first time I heard of this. Someone have to pay alot people red envelopes in order to pull this off. He/she has to bribe the government to say that a certain birth certificate is legit. Sorry, you don’t have any proof so don’t make false assumptions.

    I think that this is more of an social issue rather than a ‘child trafficking’ issue. I rather see NGO’s work with the government to get these people who beg in the streets into homeless shelters (that include parent and children.) I am sure that people who don’t want to go to these shelters have something to hide and the government can tackle those problems.

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  20. @pug_ster

    The forged birth certificate thought was planted in our public consciousness by our media during the Beijing Olympics gymnast underage accusation.

    I doubt many people even remember He Kexin was exhonorated of the accusation.

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  21. For those who can’t read Chinese, here’s jsyan’s article translated:

    “Product of Imagination

    According to professor Yu Jianrong, impetus for the movement was a parent seeking help for abducted child. Moreover, the quick response to “Instant Photo ID” is based on a broad foundation in [Chinese] social psyche. According to commentator He Caidou, the emotional spark for anti-child abduction movement came from this quote: “Uncle, cut me with a knife please, acid burn hurts too much.” The plight of beggar children exposed here, combined with tales of emotional trauma from parents of abducted children, is the nucleus of this “Instant Photo ID” movement to liberate beggar children.

    Unfortunately, joining of these two things lack factual foundation.

    Child beggars can be seen everywhere on city streets, many with indistinguishable real or fake handicap. According to statistics, abducted children number as high as 200,000 every year. People easily connect these two facts, adding to the hyperbole are sensational high income beggar stories.

    However, given China’s current state of social benefits, the lower rungs are forced to place their hopes on care provided by their children. This is where the abducted children are. According to latest media expose, majority of the high income beggar stories are unfounded. As to crippling someone for begging, is even more unlikely since that requires some level of medical sophistication.”

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  22. @ ChasL and jsyang: The article you’re quoting is really vague and, frankly, doesn’t make a lot of sense. “至于所谓致残行乞,需要较高的医学水平,更不容易发生” what? It doesn’t take a doctorate to break a kid’s legs, or cut up their face. In fact, crippling people is ridiculously easy, especially when they’re still growing. Just break something, and tie it in place so it doesn’t grow back properly; done. Does anyone really think that the people who run these gangs don’t have the “medical aptitude” to cripple children? That’s completely ludicrous.

    As for the rest of it, without any data — and no one has any data — I’m more inclined to believe the people I’ve talked to so far on the ground. These are people working at the kind of NGOs @pug_ster is talking about, homeless shelters where beggar kids and families sometimes end up. They see hundreds of these kids every month, and they all tell me that many of them are stolen and tricked into begging, pickpocketing, or other “street” lives. I realize that’s vague, and I don’t expect you to believe it until our film is finished and I can use people’s real names, give you direct quotes, and show you these kids; just saying that you’re probably not going to be able to convince me these guys on the ground doing the work are wrong with some vague article you googled.

    @ pug_ster: you don’t think people can make counterfeit birth certificates? Sure, to make one that totally checks out, you’d have to bribe a lot of people, but to make one that looks legitimate enough most people won’t suspect it just takes a printer, a pen, and some fancy-looking stamps. Of course there are people doing that. Yes, if these birth certificates come under expert scrutiny, they probably will be discovered as fake, but generally, they don’t. When was the last time you presented a document like that to anyone and had them do more than glance at it?

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  23. @ pug_ster: in response to your earlier comment, which I just noticed in the spam filter and released, I agree that the Weibo campaign and DNA tests is not going to solve the problem. Obviously, there needs to be a much more thorough approach, but this isn’t a problem that’s going away overnight.

    In the interim, I think the weibo campaign, and DNA tests only if parents of a kidnapped child think they have found their child begging on the streets and can produce photos to prove resemblance, are a good way to get at least a couple children back into the arms of their rightful parents. To me, even saving one kid that way would make the entire effort completely worthwhile.

    But you’re right: it’s just putting a small finger into the dam, as it were. There’s much, much more that needs to be done. DNA testing and Weibo are just a small and temporary relief for a few parents while others struggle with how to make the massive social and cultural changes that will be required to completely eliminate the problem.

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  24. I wish the program was allowed to go on as it seemed like an empowering action. It helped people feel that with one little action they were able to help others. It would be great if in the US a similar board could be put together for runaways.

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  25. @ stripypattern: I have absolutely no issue with letting the government test my DNA if it will help at least ONE child avoid a life of hardship and the agony of the family members thinking everyday about the hardship that their child, brother, or sister is going through. This is one sacrifice that I AM will to bear. And like one of the poster here commented, it is no willy nilly targeting of beggers, but under reasonable circumstance, people are requested to provide DNA sample. Let’s look at this another way, would you prefer the police to stop a driver and subject the person to alcohol testing if the person driving are questionable or would you forbid this and wait for accident to happen given the person is drunk driving? Yes, there will be false alarm, but it is something better then people getting kill.

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