IT is a scene that every traveller who passes through Lowu railway station cannot miss. Child beggars tailing and pleading with travellers for money, sometimes chasing them down the streets until their targets give up and open their wallets. They are everywhere. They frequent tourist spots, banks and flyovers and hunt for sympathisers. But railway stations are their favourite, offering busy traffic and an abundant supply of foreign tourists, and territories are guarded with a vengeance. Not all child beggars have been abandoned. Some are controlled by gangs and some used by their parents to beg. The flyover linking the Shenzhen railway station with the Shangri-La Hotel is the territory of a gang of boys. Under the flyover, on Jianshe Road, Wang Yu, seven, stretched out her right hand and asked me: 'Can you give me one yuan (93 HK cents)?' Without shoes and wearing a torn blue T-shirt that needed a good wash, she tried her best to win my sympathy. She grinned and tilted her head as if she wanted to have a good look at the stranger and his companion. She pointed to her mother sitting under a tree, watching her. For the past 10 days or so, Yu's 'business' had not been good. That night, she had yet to earn a yuan. I asked her mother where they would stay for the night. She said: 'Anywhere, here or there' and pointed to a spot under the railway bridge. While I was talking to Yu and her mother, two more girls begged for money. One of them, Xiao Xia, held a melting iced lolly in her left hand and asked sheepishly: 'Can you give me some money?' Like Yu and her mother, Xia was from Xinhe county in Henan. Yu's mother said they became beggars after losing their summer harvest due to bad weather. They had arrived in Shenzhen about two weeks ago and had been begging since. Xia did not know who her father was and would not say where her mother was. Her grandfather had died and her grandmother did not know she had run away. She nodded when asked if she wanted to go to school. Like Yu and her mother, Xia had no idea where she would spend the night. The only thing that she knew for certain was she was hungry. But hunger and cold may not be the main concerns these children face. It is the police who patrol the areas they fear most. Near the railway station, I met two girls. The taller one told me police once locked her up in Zhangmutou, a small boom town north of Shenzhen. 'We had to pay 400 yuan (HK$372) before they let us out,' she said. 'An old man came and paid the money.' She would not say who the man was. The army of young beggars covered the whole station and its surrounding back alleys. A teenage girl sat in a corner of the departure hall. She held up a red plastic mug with her right hand and hugged a naked baby girl. The baby, probably an abandoned girl picked up and used as a prop, had a big red scar on her swollen belly. When one traveller stuffed a one yuan note into the plastic mug, the teenage girl smiled, but the baby girl did not move at all.