Beijing ponders how to tackle surge in beggars

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 October, 2003, 12:00am

Officials admit there have been problems in implementing new regulations

New remedies to deal with a sudden increase of beggars and vagrants are being considered now that police have lost the power to send them to repatriation centres, a director of the Civil Affairs Ministry says.

Dou Yupei, director of the Ministry's General Office, yesterday said the government did not expect their numbers to increase when in August it shut the so-called custody and repatriation centres and scrapped a decade-old regulation that allowed police to send vagrants back to their home towns.

The move came after 27-year-old graphic designer Sun Zhigang was beaten to death in a repatriation centre by fellow inmates in Guangzhou after he was detained by police for failing to present his residency papers.

'The leadership was very efficient introducing new regulations on beggars and there have been problems which were not anticipated. It's normal,' Mr Dou said.

Mr Dou said 777 shelters had been set up to provide temporary accommodation to beggars and vagrants. By September 20, the shelters had received 76,000 requests for help and admitted 60,400 people.

He said the ministry was now investigating new rules to plug loopholes in the regulation issued in August.

But he said it was too early to say whether the government would reinstate police power and allow them to send beggars to shelters providing temporary accommodation - even against their wishes.

'We have not thought about this. It depends on whether these beggars are having a bad effect on society. If most people think they are a big threat, then it is possible this will happen,' Mr Dow said.

'However, if the public thinks it is normal for a big country like us to have some beggars, then there would be no need.'

Meanwhile, police could decide to guide or even 'escort' beggars and vagrants to the shelters.

The government was also considering putting up signposts in busy areas to direct beggars and vagrants to the shelters, he said, adding there also would be increased publicity about the new regulations.

He believed some beggars were unable to find the shelters because they were illiterate or had not been made aware of them. However, he conceded that there were people who had chosen begging as a 'career'.

'If they say no [to police's help], then the police cannot do anything under the current regulations,' he said.