Good times could be over for beggars of Guangzhou

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 February, 2004, 12:00am

Southern capital to follow Beijing and Shanghai in creating no-begging zones

Yang Fuwang is happy with his life as a beggar in Guangzhou, but the vocation that has given him a lucrative income is now under threat from plans to introduce a begging-free zone.

The 59-year-old peasant left his village in Zhumadian, Henan province, for the capital of Guangdong three months ago.

He set himself up in a 'home' consisting of a few pieces of cardboard and an old blanket under an elevated road and quickly teamed up with a fellow villager in the begging business.

Thanks to the generosity of residents in the city, Mr Yang makes 30 to 40 yuan a day, a significant improvement on the 300 yuan a year he used to make as a peasant. He has to go to the bank virtually every week to deposit the 50 to 100 yuan that he does not spend.

However, as with other major cities on the mainland, the good times for beggars may be coming to an end. This week, the city government announced that Guangzhou would follow Beijing, Shanghai, Fuzhou and Jiangsu in setting up no-begging zones.

In other cities, such zones include tourist spots, subway stations, railway stations and busy commercial areas, but the Guangzhou Civil Affairs Bureau said it could not provide details on the plan.

'The Civil Affairs Bureau will hold a meeting with the police and Health Bureau to decide how they should participate in the implementation of no-begging zones. We also have to consider the basic rights of beggars,' an official said.

Guangzhou has seen its image tarnished by an influx of beggars since the abolition of the custody and repatriation system last summer, which removed police powers to round up vagrants and migrants without proper papers. That system, branded by critics as discriminating against the rural population, was ended when Wuhan student Sun Zhigang died after being beaten while in custody in Guangzhou.

Since the relaxation, hordes of children from Xinjiang, reportedly brought in by syndicates, pregnant women, minority women with babies, the disabled and the elderly have descended on Guangzhou and other cities to beg.

Mr Yang said: 'They say they can help us to go home but I don't want to go home. Life in Guangzhou is better. I am used to living here, but if they force us to go I will go.'

His partner, Ma Xiaowei, a disabled musician who collects donations with his three-stringed zuihu, has already relocated his begging business to a quieter area after experiencing some harassment.

For Li Yin, a sales manager with a cosmetics company, the city government's announcement is welcome news.

Ms Li's job requires her to visit her company's shops in busy shopping complexes several times a day and she has to run the gauntlet of beggars.

'What is appalling is that they use children to beg. The children are like bandits. They hang on to you and won't let go.'