The central government has vowed that local government leaders will be held accountable if an area is found to have a serious problem of 'street children', in the latest move to curb the problem. Such youngsters are often kidnapped or sold into a life of begging and crime.
In a circular posted on its website yesterday, the State Council called on local governments to do more to help return these children to their guardians and to provide the children with legal assistance if their rights have been violated.
It said that, because of problems such as increasingly frequent migration and irresponsible parents, more and more children were ending up living on the streets, where some are forced to beg and commit crimes.
Xinhua reported that police had rescued 9,400 kidnapped children by the end of last year, in a two-year operation that started in April 2009.
The central government has asked police to be more diligent in cracking down on child abduction and trafficking, as well as on forcing of children to beg.
To help track down parents, police should collect DNA samples of the children as well as conduct background checks on them, the circular said.
Local civil affairs authorities were asked to ensure timely assistance be given to street children of all ages, including teaching them about laws that they might have been violating, and offering them guidance and therapy, as well as giving occupational training to older children before they are returned home.
Dr Yu Jianrong, with the Institute of Rural Development at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has done work in the past to help save these children, and he said he was happy to see the government express its determination to address the issue. 'Next, we should have practical and detailed measures to implement these orders,' he said yesterday as he travelled from Guangxi province to Guangdong to do research on child beggars in southern China.
To help reconnect these children with their family members, Yu and other researchers launched an online campaign of taking photos of the children and posting them, along with other details, on microblogs.
Through this campaign 'we have called upon the whole nation to pay attention to these children, and the public is now well aware of the problem,' he said. 'Next, the government should tell the public who they should report to when they find such children, and who will take care of them.'
He said the heads of local government should take responsibility for the problem and be punished if no progress was made to eliminate it.
The circular said police would send children whose guardians could not be found to welfare agencies under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, or other families would be sought to adopt them.