Chinese father and son accused of enslaving mentally ill men and forcing them to work as beggars
Pair accused of beating captives and sending them out to solicit money, sometimes accompanied by camels to attract public attention
A father and a son have been detained on suspicion of enslaving seven men with mental disabilities and forcing them to beg on the streets of a city in central China, local police said on Wednesday.
A statement by police in Daye, Hubei province accused the suspects, surnamed Zhao, of abducting the men last year and forcing them to live in trucks, feeding them poor quality food.
They beat the men with sticks when they disobeyed them or did not collect enough money, police said.
The seven men were aged between 17 and 55. All of them suffered from moderate or severe learning difficulties and many had difficulty communicating.
The two suspects initially denied enslaving the men, telling police they were part of a performing troupe. The pair had also brought a couple of camels with them, and claimed they were part of the show, sending the men out onto the streets with the animals to attract the public’s attention.
“We saw dirty water everywhere and there was a horrible odour when we opened the truck door. There was also stinky food sitting in basins. You don’t need to guess how cruel the Zhaos were to them,” said Liu Weimin, a senior police officer.
The trucks had been modified to hold bunk beds for the disabled men to sleep on. Their clothes were ripped and the beds were dirty. The bad smell was the result of the men being denied access to showers for a long time, Liu said.
The police got involved when Liu came across a 17-year-old who was begging in the streets of Daye with a camel on Friday.
Liu and other plain clothes officers followed the beggar, who led them to the suspects’ trucks.
Police found two of the abducted men were amputees – each missing a leg – and another was deaf, Chutian Metropolis Daily reported.
The suspects told police they had the idea of abducting the men after hearing disabled people could make good money by begging.
Police did not explain how the men had apparently been able to abduct the men, whom they drove to Daye from Linquan in Anhui province.
The two suspects, aged 20 and 47, also brought their wives, the younger Zhao’s one-year-old child and the two camels along with them.
Police helped the seven alleged victims return home on Monday and they were handed over to the care of the local welfare services.
The suspects were detained and police were still processing the case, according to the statement.