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Beggars in China Wary of Government Assistance
An Pei
3/11/2004



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Many peasants leave the Guizhou and Yunnan areas due to increased school tuition fees and settle on the streets of Guangdong’s Foshan City, refusing any government handouts and living as beggars, reported Southern Weekend magazine.
According to Wei Dengzhong, educator and writer, there are a small number of assistance centers, but generally beggars think that government officials want to arrest and send them back so they keep running.

Cheng Tijie, Social Studies Professor at the University of Macao, said that after the case of Sun Zhigang, a textile worker from Wuhan, who was beaten to death by eight inmates at a penitentiary hospital just hours after being arrested as a vagrant for not carrying any identification, most are wary of any government assistance. Since that incident, the government shut down the hospital and created a center that services emergency situations. Most people living on the streets want money rather than food and jump from different villages and cities begging for money, and begging has become a way of making a living for some. Professor Cheng urges the government and university professors to conduct a survey on the amount of money beggars make.

According to the Southern Weekend report, the Foshan City Assistance Center accommodates 59 vagrants, 33 of who are from Kaili in Guizhou. Most are children under ten years old, whose parents uproot the family because of increased tuition fees.

Wei said that in Guizhou annual incomes and living conditions are poor. While beggars cannot get much money, begging for cash still provides more income in coastal areas than a laborer can earn in Guizhou. Tuition fees are not expensive, but the cost of living is very high. Lacking a high school diploma puts individuals at a greater risk of begging if they are unable to find a job.

Local government officials are reluctant to use the word “beggar,” but instead refer to these individuals as laborers. Cheng Xijie warned that child labor should outlawed. Local government laws require these people to stay in the countryside, but they often grow weary after not finding a job and turn to begging on the streets. Wei said that people do not believe the government really wants to help them, and therefore they do not seek any assistance.

People begging in the streets is a serious social problem. The increase in the disparity between rich and poor in China is continually growing. Cheng thinks begging should not be outlawed, however forcing a child to beg violates the law. There should also be stringent laws prohibiting parents from beating their children to the point of disability and then using them as a front when they beg. He also suggests that the best way to solve this problem is to stabilize the economy, adjust social policy, accommodate unequal distribution, eliminate poverty, and reduce social unfairness.

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