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February 10, 2011

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Police: abductions hard to prove

SHANGHAI police admit that it is difficult for them to establish whether beggar children they find in the city have been abducted.

The issue is high in the public consciousness following the launch last month of a high-profile Internet campaign.

City police say it's a routine job cracking down on begging, insisting they "will never be soft on child abductions."

But yesterday Shanghai's Metro police said that while they question children found begging or performing on the subway network, almost always the children claim they were brought there by their parents or relatives.

Officers mainly rely on the nationwide online population registration and the children's accounts to match them with their parents or relatives.

Rarely do police conduct DNA tests.

Police say their task is made more difficult as information may be inadequate and beggars may not tell the truth.

Shanghai Metro police say in recent searches they have found no trace of children being abducted by traffickers.

After searching records, police were satisfied the children were taken to the city by their parents or relatives, said Song Youguo, an officer with Shanghai Metro police.

However, sometimes abducted children are discovered.

Last July, Shanghai police rescued a 13-year-old boy from an illegal circus in suburban Fengxian District.

Another problem officers face is how to deal with persistent child beggars. They can be sent to aid centers set up by the local civil affairs authority or given back to their parents.

Almost all the children choose the second option and are soon begging again, police said.

Begging can be a profitable business, officers said. A child can make about 200 yuan (US$30) a day, and more during the holidays.

Despite the complications, the city's volunteers have vowed to continue their efforts to save children by posting the pictures online.

"I hope the children's parents can see my snapshot," said a subway rider, surnamed Peng, who photographed two child beggars on Line 11 yesterday.


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