In a precedent setting ruling, a court in Shanghai has jailed two women for instigating juveniles to steal nearly 20,000 yuan (US$2,910). The duo, both from Yongzhou in central China’s Hunan province, were accused of organising minors to steal from cashier desks in shopping malls, optical stores, children’s clothing shops and mother and baby stores, that netted more than 19,900 yuan from March to May last year, the Shanghai People’s Procuratorate said, according to news portal Thepaper.cn. Both women were sentenced to 42 months in jail and fined 10,000 yuan, the judge in the Qingpu district court said in ruling last week. The judge said that the ruling was exemplary as similar cases of instigating minors to steal have become common on the mainland, the report said. Brazen Chinese thief caught after he tries to steal again from the same shop dressed in clothes he took just a day before Police said that more than 150 female suspects, mostly from Yongzhou, had been detained between September 2015 and December last year for instigating juveniles to steal, the report said. What surprised procurators in Shanghai during their investigation is that none of the four children involved in the thefts was the offspring of either woman. They had been “rented” from families in Yongzhou that have more than one child. China has the world’s strictest birth control policy and parents who broke the former one-child policy found it difficult to access social benefits such as schooling and medical care if they failed to pay high fines. Families were permitted to have a second child from 2015. Investigations showed that some families intentionally had more children, who could be rented out and bring money to the family – as much as 50,000 yuan a year in some cases, the report cited a procurator as saying. The battle of China’s invisible children, victims of the one-child policy, to recover lost years In the case of the Yongzhou women,a seven-year-old girl, who was leased from her parents and ordered to steal, was from a family with six children. While she was stealing for the two female suspects, her parents took her brothers, aged 8 and 6, to commit thefts in the eastern coastal region of China. The procuratorate said that most of the suspects in such cases were pregnant women or new mothers, so in most cases they would be released after education from police. Thirty-one children were caught after being instigated to steal in Shanghai since 2014, and four in five of them were younger than 10, according to figures from the Shanghai police. Under China’s law to protect minors, anyone who instigates or makes use of minors to commit crimes could be relieved of guardianship. However, experts and procurators said that without an official system to take care of such minors, they remained vulnerable to similar crimes.