Begging hits public in the pocket
Lanzhou residents are losing an average of 10 million yuan a year to pickpockets posing as beggars in the streets of the Gansu provincial capital.
About 1,000 'professional beggars', mainly women and children, ply their trade in the city's streets, the China News Agency quoted an official as saying.
Assuming that each beggar makes 30 yuan a day from unsuspecting passers-by, between them they would make 10 million yuan a year, the official said.
'The majority of the beggars are not penniless. Some of them have even got mobile phones,' he added.
The official recalled an incident in which a woman beggar was taken to an assistance area with some children in her 'team' and pulled out a mobile phone to talk to her friends.
'What is even more shocking is that we get beggars saying to us that they would follow us [to the assistance stations] provided that we could offer them an income of 100 yuan a day,' the official said.
The report said Lanzhou authorities were concerned about the situation and were drawing up measures to deal with the number of beggars.
Several mainland cities have recently increased measures to control the problem, with Beijing, Shanghai, Fuzhou and Jiangsu setting up no-begging zones.