Beggars on China’s subway network are making up to US$60 a day

Despite the practice being illegal, fines are so low that spongers consider it worth the risk

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 March, 2018, 4:14pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 March, 2018, 4:14pm

Professional beggars who prowl the subway network of a major city in central China are taking home 400 yuan (US$63) a day, or about five times the national average working wage, according to a local media report.

Such is the scale of the problem that police and subway authorities in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, last week launched a campaign to hit back at those who make their living scrounging cash from commuters, Chutian Metropolis Daily reported on Friday.

Although begging on public transport is illegal in China, the size of the fine for doing so varies from place to place. In Wuhan, it is just 50 yuan.

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With such a minimal deterrent, the authorities’ new idea adopts a carrot and stick approach by offering beggars immunity from a financial penalty for their first offence, as long as they sign an agreement to pay a fine of 200 yuan if they are caught a second time.

But despite the officials’ best intentions, many of the beggars who opted for the sign now, pay later deal, were spotted back on the subway’s platforms the very next morning, the report said.

One of the regulars was quoted as saying that he usually made between 300 and 400 yuan a day.

The beggars targeted the busiest lines, he said, although they avoided the morning and evening rush hours because at those times the trains were so full it made it difficult to move from carriage to carriage.

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Beggars are a common sight on China’s subways, with the most successful of them earning as much as 1,000 yuan a day, according to previous media reports.

Many feign illness or affect a disability to in a bid to win more attention and sympathy.

According to a news report from 2014, a man in Nanjing, capital of eastern China’s Jiangsu province, made so much money from begging over an eight-year period that he could afford to buy two flats in the most expensive parts of the city.