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January 27, 2011

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Girl chained to stop her stealing

THE desperate parents of a wayward 13-year-old girl have resorted to chaining her up beside their stall at a wet market in Shanghai to stop her stealing.

Instead of enjoying her winter holiday, the girl sits in silence, her ankles and wrists red from where the iron chains rub against her skin.

Her parents know what they are doing is wrong but say they have no choice. The girl, surnamed Peng, had been stealing things since she was at primary school, her mother said.

"Whenever she was out of our sight, she would start stealing," she said, wiping away tears in sorrow at how she was having to treat her daughter.

The couple are from Chongqing Municipality in southwest China and run a small stall at a wet market in Baoshan District. They brought their daughter, who had been living in Chongqing with her grandparents, to Shanghai last April after Chongqing police and her school had repeatedly complained about her stealing.

"She mainly steals money, but just small amounts," said her mother. The girl would use the money to buy snacks.

But the family, though not well-off, said the girl wasn't suffering from hunger. "She has three big meals every day," her mother said.

Peng had been caught by police many times, her parents said, but she would only be warned not to do it again because of her young age.

To prevent her from stealing, Peng has to be chained up 24 hours a day, even when she is asleep, her parents said.

The chains will only be taken off when she needs to use the bathroom.

Even then, her mother would have to keep a close eye on the girl.

The teenager has never been to school after arriving in Shanghai.

Yang Yongming, director of the Shanghai Youth Protection Center, said what the parents were doing was illegal.

"Using iron chains cannot correct the girl's misbehavior. They should educate and guide their daughter."

Yang said they should send her to a reformation center in the city where children committing minor crimes would be properly trained and educated. Her parents should also try to discover the reasons behind their daughter's wrongdoing.

Sang Biao, a psychology professor at East China Normal University, said the girl must have psychological problems, and he agreed that locking her up was not going to solve the problem.

The factors that caused such behavior were usually complicated, and the parents should take her for consultation to find out the reasons for it, Sang said.


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