Police to Verify Microblog Clues on Child Beggars
    2011-02-10 15:07:30     CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Jiang
 
China's top police authorities have responded to the country's microblog initiative to free child beggars from their plight, vowing to verify every clue that might lead to the solving of human-trafficking cases.

Chen Shiqu, Director of China's Public Security Ministry's Anti-human Trafficking Department, recently wrote on his microblog that he would keep the online communication channel open and welcome people to provide clues that would be checked by his department, Xinhuanet.com reports.

The police response came following widespread media attention that focused on a microblog campaign urging netizens to post photos of child beggars in the hope that their parents would recognize them and government authorities would take action to address the problem.

Yu Jianrong, of the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, initiated the microblog campaign on January 26. The microblog shows more than 1,000 photos of child beggars taken by netizens across China.

So far, several children have been identified by their parents, and four of them have contacted Yu, according to the Xinhuanet.com report. His microblog has attracted more than 100,000 followers, and the number keeps growing.

Yu has called on netizens to provide photos or videos of child beggars on the street and post them on the microblog along with the time and exact locations of the shots.

The Xinhuanet.com report quoted Beijing municipal police authorities as saying that citizens should first alert police if they spotted child beggars. They said when police arrived at the scene, they would verify the identities of the child beggars and adults that controlled them. If the adults were found to be the legal guardians of the minors, then the police would contact local civil affairs authorities to provide necessary assistance, and the guardians would be reprimanded. If the adults were found to be using trafficked or handicapped children for begging, then police would turn the adults over to public security departments, and the children would be sent to juvenile rescue and protection centers. The centers would then contact relevant authorities in the minors' hometowns and release them only after their legal guardians had been found, the report said.

But police also face the dilemma of not being able to conduct DNA tests in every case and having to launch criminal investigations only after they have obtained sufficient evidence.

There have also been concerns that the criminals would resort to removing or even mutilating the children's features to hide them from public view following their exposure.

Wang Jingbo, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told "People's Daily" that the key was whether the police would be able to take timely action immediately after they had been alerted. Another key factor, he said, was whether the general public and police could interact effectively to weave an ever tighter network to contain the criminal activities.

Qiao Xinsheng, a professor at the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, said China's criminal code stipulates that citizens are obliged to report criminal activities to the police, including via the internet. But if they randomly post someone else's information online, they may infringe on that person's rights, including the right to privacy.

Qiao also pointed out that the microblog campaign should not serve to cover up the shortcomings of relevant government bodies in fulfilling their responsibilities in combating human trafficking.

While netizens' participation should be encouraged, laws should also be drafted to regulate people's voluntary actions in preventing or containing crimes, said Wang Shun'an, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law.

A commentary in the "Xiaoxiang Morning Post" said the microblog campaign might not do much to address the problem of child trafficking since the trafficked children were mostly sold to families that wanted to adopt a child and few children ended up begging on streets.

The commentary went on to say it was better to have parents authorize the online publication of their missing children's photos and information to seek clues.

Furthermore, the country's judicial and law enforcement organizations should step in after cases have been reported by the media and work with other authorities to strike at the roots of child trafficking, a "Beijing News" commentary said.

More importantly, it said, the government should realize that the fight against human trafficking would require long-term and systematic efforts and would not be as simple as catching a criminal, freeing a child and sending him back to where he came from. Victims should be properly cared for, as are handicapped children. It was precisely the government's responsibility to provide valuable assistance, the commentary said.
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