An investigation by Malaysian online news channel The Star has uncovered a “beggar gang” run by Chinese gangsters that specializes in kidnapping children, disfiguring them and forcing them to beg on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
Working alongside a group of Malaysian accomplices, the gang, headed by two Chinese brothers is said to have links in both Dongguan and Zhengzhou. Information about the gang was obtained from interviews with two Chinese beggars both suffering severe physical deformities. Reporters from The Star followed these individuals through the crowded streets of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, finding at least 30 physically deformed beggars “belonging” to the operation at tourist hotspots along the way.
One of the beggars, 33-year-old Xiu Yuan, told reporters that he had been born healthy, but was later crippled by the gang when he was a child and had been kept captive for many years before being allowed to travel abroad. Presumably, he was begging on the streets of China until being given the “privilege” of going overseas.
Brought to Malaysia on a tourist visa, Xiu Yuan spends most of his time begging on the streets. His day ends at a cheap shared housing unit where his earnings are handed over to the gang’s leaders, reported The Star.
Reporters later met with 30-year-old Do Feng from Zhengzhou, who told them how much the beggars are expected to collect.
“We travel in taxis and the fare is taken care of by our leader. Our job is to collect a minimum of RM1,200 (1,900 RMB) a day after going out of our base in Petaling Street,” Feng told reporters. He explained that during weekends one beggar might be able to make up to RM3,000 (4,800 RMB), depending on the number of tourists. The leaders would then take RM1,500 (2,400 RMB) of that, plus the taxi fare.
So, is something being done given all this information?
“Cases of people from China begging and wandering in Malaysia is not new,” an unnamed official from the Chinese consulate in Malaysia told Beijing Youth Daily. “The embassy always takes measures once the cases are specifically identified.” The official stressed that these cases are mainly handled by Malaysian police. So, it doesn’t really sound like much is being done…
Of course, this isn’t a new problem for China either. Stories like that of Yang Weixin, who was kidnapped from his home in 2009 and seen begging in a photo posted to Weibo two years later, have encouraged more and more people to take to social media in an attempt to help abducted kids, posting pictures of begging children in an attempt to rescue them.
Unfortunately, beggar gangs have become a cruel reality in China where there is a large number of orphans with no one to care for them. By the end of 2015, China had 502,000 orphans, of which 92,000 were up for adoption. That same year, there were just 22,000 registered adoption cases.
By Seamus Gibson
[Images via The Star / Tencent]