A nation-wide police operation has resulted in the arrests of 360 suspects accused of abducting dozens of deaf-mute students and forcing them to commit robberies, mainly burglaries, the Beijing News reported on Wednesday.
The operation, ordered by the Ministry of Public Security, rooted out 61 gangs engaged in abduction from 21 provinces across China, and rescued 70 deaf-mute people.
The arrested suspects were responsible for 345 crimes. Among the arrested was Yang Erdu, China’s most-wanted criminal, who master minded a series of abduction crimes.
Police said the suspects would approach the victims, the majority of whom were deaf-mutes students born after 1990, by posting job offers with attractive terms on social networking websites. When the students came to be interviewed, the gang members seized the student’s belongings and held them captive.
The gangs used physical abuse to force the students to commit crimes, police told the newspaper. The victims were not allowed to contact their families, talk to strangers or reveal information about the gangs if arrested by police, the report said.
If the students broke the rules, the gangs would punish them, cutting ears and hand tendons.
Police said the gangs were tightly organised. Their members used fake names and communicated with each other using sign language.
Li Xiaoming, the head of one of the gangs, told police his gang took a “vacation” in winter and held annual meetings to discuss past “accomplishments” and set new goals.
His members committed crimes in pairs – an “expert” teamed with a “rookie”. The “expert” would train the “rookie” and teach him how to steal, he said. Together, each pair was ordered to steal goods worth at least 24,000 yuan a month. If they failed to reach the target they would be ordered to stand still or kneel all night or fast for three days.
Police said the deaf-mute people were both victims and criminals, and that they would impose heavy penalties on the chief perpetrators and show leniency to the coerced.