Rethink on police vagrancy powers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 January, 2004, 12:00am

The rising number of beggars could force a reversal of regulatory reforms

Mainland cities are struggling to cope with the problem of vagrants and beggars who have become a growing eyesore and a source of crime.

Guangzhou is even studying the possibility of restoring some of the police powers removed last year when the central government revoked a regulation allowing officers to repatriate vagrants and beggars at their own discretion.

Zhang Deming, a vice-director of Guangzhou Public Security Bureau, told Xinhua yesterday the municipal government was considering a new local regulation that would authorise the administration to set up a monitoring system among its departments to keep track of vagrants and beggars.

He said relevant departments would repatriate those considered likely to break the law.

A new regulation covering vagrants was introduced by the State Council last August, replacing a 1982 rule that gave police powers to detain and repatriate them.

The change in the law was prompted by the death of Hubei graphic designer Sun Zhigang, 27, in Guangzhou last March after he was detained by police.

Instead of forced detention and repatriation, the new regulation required local governments to open shelters and aid centres to provide temporary accommodation to vagrants and beggars. It also stipulated that such help was voluntary and that police could not force them to take refuge at the centres.

Beijing is planning an interdepartmental filing system to monitor beggars who seek help from government shelters.

Their names would be posted on the internet to discourage them from becoming professional beggars moving from one shelter to another, a report in the Beijing Times said.

The municipal government in Changsha, Hunan, has issued a regulation instructing district government offices to speed up the construction of shelters and aid centres.

Sun was beaten to death last March after being detained because he was not carrying his temporary residency papers when questioned by police.

His father, Sun Lusong, told Xinhua that the law change showed that his son's death was not in vain. He said Zhigang's death had helped to strengthen the legal system and protect people's rights.