This article is a translation of the reporting/dialogue in a TV program about China’s beggar industry in a city called Dongguan, which is close to Hong Kong. This TV station is based in Hong Kong, it is the only outside-of-mainland-China TV station that is allowed to broadcast to certain people of mainland China, due to its relationship with the Beijing administrations. It’s called Phoenix TV, which main audience is the people living in China. Although they are not allowed to report those news which could hurt the government of China, they do not need to lie, or be manipulated by the Beijing government. So this TV station is the only news resource of many young Chinese, and the educated Chinese who can use internet to approach their reporting.
China has been called the Factory of the World. Inside China, the factories are mainly in two areas. One is near Shanghai, and the other is near Hong Kong. This translation of the program is about the horrible beggar-control industry in this city called Dongguan which is completely full of all kinds of factories: shoes, clothes, electronic products, toys…
My business is to help international architects and designers to promote their services in China, not related to any charity, children…I just feel I need to do something after watching this story. We are so disappointed in this government and want it to be gone for ever, please help us by giving constant pressure to the government. In their eyes the people are nothing, our words are simply ignored all the time!
Story 1: Jianqiu Loo’s Arm and Legs
After reading this article, please watch the video which will be shown to you. It’s all in Mandarin. In about one minute, the program will show you a photo of a young man standing in front of a traditional building. His name is Jianqiu Loo, from the City of Wuzhou, in Guangxi Province. If somehow he is still alive today, somewhere, he should be 35 years old.
This is how he disappeared 10 years ago.
In 2000, he, as a young man of about 20 years old, went to Dongguan to work as one of the many migrant workers in the region. One evening after work he went to see his girl friend and never come back. His family all thought he died. The policemen of his hometown didn’t do anything when his family reported to them his missing.
Then in 2010, ten years later, his cousin, whose name is Xiaoyan Loo, was also working in this city, another town. If you watch the video, you will see a woman in red and then telling her story in dark, without showing her face. Obviously she was scared that she would get revenge by those beggar group if they see her face on TV.
One evening, she was wondering around in the busy commercial street of a industrial town alone. She walked to a quiet lane, and suddenly heard someone was calling her nickname, in the dialect of her hometown. She looked around, saw no one but a beggar beside her, one side of his legs and arms is missing, long and dirty hair. She was confused and didn’t say anything. Then she heard that voice again. “Are you calling me?” She asked.
“Yes. Your father’s name is ***, right?” The beggar asked.
“That’s right. Who are you?”
“I am your Sandee (The Third Child and Younger Brother of the family). My father is ***.”
“But my Sandee is already dead.” She said.
“No.” The beggar then started to shed tears. He was sitting on his bottom on a wooden board beside a garage bin in the street, dirty and in rags, but the woman managed to recognize that he is her cousin Jianqiu Loo. She noticed that he only has one arm, and both legs have been cut off from above the knees, one of which was in an odd position. When you watch the TV, you will notice a sketch in black showing a man with beard on a board with wheels and a chain on the front. That’s what he was like as a beggar.
He asked her whether they were in their hometown in Guangxi Province. She said no, they were in Dongguan.
“Why are you looking like this? We have been looking for you for many years.” She asked him.
“It has been ten years…ten years ago. I woke up and became like this.” He said.
“What do you mean?”
“Ten years ago. I got off a bus, and walked for a short distance, bumped into a man, then became unconscious…I woke up in agony, and realized that my legs were gone, and one arm was also missing. It was all dark in the room, and I had no idea what’s going on…After some time, there would be a man walking in to change the medical ointment.” Jianqiu Loo told her.
While telling her what happened, he was looking at a minibus stopping nearby. She looked at that direction and noticed there were two men carrying other no-leg beggars to that minibus. He told her to be closer and throw some changes to his plate every now and then, otherwise those men would get suspicious.
He kept telling his story. “I was locked in that dark room for one year and then the wounds were healed. They took me out to beg money. Some days I slept in those minibus, sometimes they took us to another place to sleep. I clearly remember that it has been ten years as every year, during the New Year we would be fed with chicken legs. I knew that must be New Year. So I marked on the wall. Now there are ten bars on the wall.”
“So what do you eat everyday?”
“Mostly stuffed bum (baods).”
They were both inexperienced in this kind of situation, and obviously uneducated, before they realized that they should figure out how to rescue Jianqiu Loo from the beggar group, the watching men of this group noticed something wrong with them. They came and took Jianqiu away, threw him to the minbus and left. The woman, watching his cousin abused, kicked and beat by the two men, instead of reporting to the local police or call the police, she ran home because she was too scared. The only thing she noticed was that the two men are both big, one of them has tattoo on his arm. The license plate number of the minibus was blocked from being seen by one of the men. She did notice that they were speaking a dialect which could be from Henan Province or Anhui Province, because she works in a factory where there are other workers from those two provinces.
Those two ferocious men warned her to mind her own affairs, or she will get cut down. And they asked her for money. She said she didn’t have any money with her. So the two men asked her to fuck off.
When her cousin Jianqiu was carried away by the two men. He lowed his head in fear and said nothing.
Xiaoyan Loo, the woman ran home and sent a text message to her sister in the hometown, telling her that she saw their cousin Jianqiu. Just like most of Chinese peasants, especially women, she didn’t realize that she could/should report to the police to get help because in the poor countryside the policemen are never close to the people. She was scared also because she and her family were told ten years ago that Jianqiu Loo had already died somewhere, in those superstitious activities. She was either confused or scared, subconsciously she shared her fear with someone she could trust, the family, not local government.
But her message stirred the entire village up. Older brother of Jianqiu Loo drove to this town immediately at night, from another province. The next day, more of the family members and friends came in five cars, to start to look for him. But obviously it was too late.
Brother of Jianqiu Loo is called Zhudong Loo. He remembered that in downtown Dongguan you didn’t see many beggars like that with legs or arms missing. But in the suburb towns they were easy to see. Some streets may have 4-5 beggars. None of them could stand up. They all sat or prostrated themselves on a wood board with four wheels underneath, and a chain in the front to pull by another beggar. Some of them use their hands on the ground to get themselves moving. He was also horrified by some of the beggars who were suffering from hunger or illness looked incredibly thin: their heads looked huge on their small necks…
The family members and friends looked everywhere in different towns and the city, tailed the beggars, or minibuses which looked similar to the one who took Jianqiu away. One day they spend the whole day to watch a beggar, hoping to find out who were controlling them, and where they would take the poor beggars. They saw that a big man came to pull their wooden four-wheel cart to somewhere quiet, took the money in the plate away, leaving a few cents as bait, or bring some water to the beggars. Most of the watch-dogs are big. They were also responsible moving the beggars around for more income.
Jianqiu’s cousin, the woman who saw Jianqiu, also joined the famly to look for him. She noticed one of the watch-dogs was actually also disabled, probably a beggar too because she saw that although he could stand up, and control others, he only had one hand, and he couldn’t speak to the bum shop owner when he was buying two bums as the beggar’s meal.
She saw that after buying meals for the beggar, and leave a few bank notes of changes in the plate. He walked to a car waiting nearby, giving the money to the driver. The car then left. The beggar continued to beg for money, the watch-dog beggar continued to watch him and other members in the street/district.
The man in the car wore sunglasses, short hair.
One of friends who came to search for Jianqiu noticed that most of the beggars had similar leg and arm problems, they all had similar wheel-boards, and they were controlled in a similar way. In the morning the beggars are dropped in the breakfast places, or food markets when those places are rather busy. At lunch they may be relocated to another place for more income. Some of them had one leg, some had no legs, some had no legs, no arms. Some beggars are with children. If the child is old enough, he/she might pull the chain to move the adult beggar in the street. In those cases, there would be an adult walking on the side to watch them. Once the plate is full. Those big guys would just take away the money.
He also noticed that those sunglasses drivers all drive good cars. They would drive to one street, and took away all the money of every beggar in that street, then go to another street to collect money.
Zhudong one day saw that a beggar crawled on his hands for about 100m toward somewhere because it started to drizzle down. But the watch-dog man came, use the chain to pull him back to outside the market to keep begging.
Zhudong is the brother of Jianqiu. He has been looking for his younger brother in this city for years. Although there were no result, he knows how the beggar groups work. Every morning. The minibuses loaded with beggars come and unload the beggars to different locations of the city. Each town has 2-3 beggars, not in the downtown city for some reason. If there are holidays/shows, there would be more beggars in certain places. Beggars are taken away at 10:00 pm in the evening by vans. The big guys in those vans are very quick while carrying the beggars onto the vans. A minibus collects all the beggars from the vans. They couldn’t see inside the minibus and find out how many beggars were in there because the windows were all coated in black. They could only managed to see that it seems there were an upper shelve and a lower shelve. Zhudong’s impression is that those shelves are just like those on the trucks for transporting pigs.
The family actually found the minibus in a few days but it is a scarp minibus with fake plate.
Most of such beggar group minibuses are parked in the middle of nowhere, for example, outside of a postponed construction site, on the road side where not many people work. They saw sometimes all the beggars spent their nights in the minibus. And they will cook outside.
Just like the woman, Jianqiu’s brother Zhudong also didn’t care to report to the police for help. He said he did that to the local police station of their hometown ten years ago but those people didn’t provide any feedback at all after his reporting. Zhudong believed that if he couldn’t provide any evidence of his brother being kidnapped/hurt by evil people, the police office will not take his case. So he wanted to see his brother before asking for help from the police.
But he has never had the chance to see his younger brother.
The family never asked for help from the government and police, but they did ask help from an old man named Xiuyong Wong. He helped the police to crack down he prostitution industry in the City of Dongguan 4 years ago, and became well known in China. The family approached him because he knows a lot about the hell world of Dongguan.
Story 2. Xiuyong Wong who has seen the hell in China
If you watch the video, you will see an old man talking. He is our hero whose family name is Wong. He is not a local. Mr. Wong lives in Shandong Province in the north, the same province where Qingdao beer is made. The reason he knows so much about the dark side of Dongguan is that he used to perform in the streets. And he managed to join the beggar group. Although he ended the hell life in Dongguan and went back to his home in Shandong, he told the reporter what he saw before.
In the video you will see he was showing a piece of paper to the reporter in large words, then another piece of paper in smaller words. When he was explaining what the first paper of short sentences was, I could only hear he said: “I wrote this down in simple words to tell you what the society is really like…” then the video is edited, and the camera jumped to the second paper he showed to us. It is possible that HongKong Phoenix TV knew that the edited message are not allowed to be in the air by Beijing. He wrote the message on the second piece of paper using his foot (this could be the way of attracting sympathy what he was performing/begging in the street of Dongguan, obviously as a beggar instead of an artist. ). The paper is about what he saw in the evil beggar groups, and he categorized the beggars into five types. The video didn’t tell us whether this man got into the mysterious beggar group intentionally, or not. According to what we see about his home behind him in the video, it is a very poor man’s home so it is likely he became a beggar just for a living, not that he tried to dig some news or crack down the evil beggar groups.
But he did make a photocopy of the paper to the local police in 2010. There was no result, probably if the local police decided to crack down the beggar industry of that city, it will ruin the reputation of local authority or it was just because he was nobody.
In that piece of paper he classified the Dongguan beggars into five groups (the details are not shown). He said the beggar groups in the industrial towns surrounding downtown Dongguan were rampant from the year of 2000 when he started to notice them. This is also the year when Jianqiu Loo lost his legs and one arm.
Mr. Wong said those beggar groups were controlled by different gangs, sometimes by a couple. Most of them are from the Province of Henan, in the middle of China. Henan has the worst reputation among Chinese. For some reasons Henan people appeared to be more selfish and merciless. The rates of cheating/crimes appeared to be higher than any other provinces in China. I have been to this province for three times in my life and every time I was cheated and lost money, big or small. So if one of your friends is going to do business with Chinese and they are from this province, be careful. By the way, nowadays most of the iPhone are assembled here.
On the other hand, in history the people in this province have suffered more tragedies including the 1924 Famine due to the Japanese invasion, and another famine during the Mao Era in the 1950s. This province has a huge population but is limited to its resources, this could be one of the reasons the people tend to ignore the human lives, even including their own lives. One example is the AIDS Villages in this province. Around twenty years ago many villagers were selling their blood for money, to the local blood-collectors. Nobody knew they should not share the needles. Maybe some of the local blood-collectors knew but they didn’t care. As a result many got the AIDS, including children…
Mr. Wong said, at first the Nenan people noticed that the beggars were making pretty good money, so they started to rent disabled children and adults in their own villages, say $400 a year the more miserable looking the more expensive. These people would give the $400 to their parents in the village and took those disabled kids/adults to Dongguan, or other richer cities in China to beg in the street. It is not just Dongguan that has this kind of beggar groups, it’s everywhere in China and most of Chinese know that many beggars are controlled as many people have seen the money in front of the beggars was harvested by someone in the street. We didn’t know those people would steal/kidnap healthy children/adults and make them beggars. We didn’t know where those beggars stay at night, what they do when they get sick. Obviously this is still a underground industry. Some of these groups are run by one person, some by a peasant couple, some by a group of peasants. They started to rent or steal more disabled children from other places outside of their own villages when they found out that the profit was quite generous. And then they started to steal healthy children and cut their legs, their tongues, burn their skins to make them a profitable beggar. This is one of the reasons there are so many babies missing each year, although the main reason is not they are shaped into beggars, they are just sold to the families who need a boy, or another child. As we can see that, if a healthy young man like Jianqiu Loo can be cut into a beggar without the ability of running away, then it must be much easier and safer for those groups to work on the children.
I read a story yesterday. A man is traveling to Shanghai, when he was waiting in the street, he felt someone was holding his leg. When he looked down, it’s a little beggar, holding his leg and keeping making noise like a dumb. Then he realized that the little beggar is actually his nephew, the missing child of his sister! The beggar group had cut his tongue so he couldn’t speak or call his parents! (These discussion is not translation, just my own words.)
Mr. Wong said, those groups started to ride a pedicab to move the beggars around, when they had enough money, they started to use motor vehicles to carry more and move quickly. Those motor vehicles were like schooners, equipped with stove for cooking. Most of them settle down in an empty/abandoned construction site which is everywhere in an industrial city like Dongguan. There are very few local residents, mostly migrant workers, so nobody really care as they were all just passing by.
The schooners are the beggars’ temporary homes. They are sent to different locations by big threatening men to make money in very early morning to avoid being seen, and then harvested by vans and minibuses at 10:00PM when there are less customers in the streets. As Jianqiu’s brother and friends have found out.
Mr. Wong said there was a very striking feature is that those groups are all from the same place: Henan Province. Specifically it is Xingyang, Zhoukou, Zhumadian, etc. Mr. Xiuyong Wong used to be part of a beggar group controlled by the Zhoukou gang. The head is a peasant, who hired 3-4 hatchet men to manage more than a dozen disable children beggars.
Mr. Wong said that many children were abandoned by their mother when they were born because their mother was just a young migrant worker, couldn’t have a child before having a family. Dongguan is a place full of young migrant workers and also a hell for unwanted babies. These babies are left in the park, in the street, by the river, waiting to be picked up. Many of them are picked up by the beggar groups, who would feed the babies with milk for some time, then put in the streets with an adult pretending to be his/her disabled parent.
Mr. Xiuyong Wong had himself found a few abandoned babies himself when he was in Dongguan. He tried not to let the beggar groups know about that because those people would try to buy them or even steal them from him. He knew once the poor babies were in their hands what their fate would be like. No matter the baby is healthy or not, he/she would be cut into a disabled beggar. He knew that because he remembered what happened to a baby girl which was found by the head of the gang. She was just a few days old, left in a carbon box near a river. She was fed and looked after for about 3 months, then became a tool of money making. She was wrapped in a blanket, put on a mat with a plate in the street, a Ground Statement paper beside her little body says what a miserable life she is living in, and she desperately needs help…
An adult was watching her in a distance.
She was too young to be shaped into a disabled human. Mr. Xiuyong Wong said, other older babies of 2 or 3 years old weren’t so lucky. The evil beggar group head would broke their healthy legs without anesthetic and the baby would scream in such agony. The tools used to break their little legs include bricks, timber, etc. Those evil people would not take the babies to hospital to get treated of course. They let their legs become infected, and suppurate, because this kind of legs will be more profitable. And they can write on the Ground Statement that the baby’s family couldn’t afford to go to hospital and needed help. So the little legs were intentionally kept suppurating all the time. If one day the head saw that the wound started to heal. He would use a little stick to knock on the fresh wound to make it suppurate again.
Dongguan used to have asylums, later they were transformed into more active salvation stations. But the numbers of beggars have not been reduced in the streets, because the beggar groups had learned to hide from the staff of salvation stations. This will not change unless the government agree to let the people know the truth, instead of hiding the dark side. If the government tells the people not to believe what they read on the Ground Statement, not to believe the babies are the children of the adult beggars on the side, not to give money to them, this beggar industry will not so profitable. The fact is, because most Chinese want to help those beggars and believe their money can help them, the profit has made it an industry. In some villages of Henan or Anhui Province, the entire family traveled to a city in Guangdong Province to run a beggar business including the children and grandparents. A captain of the villagers would bring multiple families to here to run a business without needing to hire outsiders which are less reliable. Of course their own kids will not be beggars. They are nicely dressed. The women are nicely dressed and take care of the bank accounts and cash including wiring money to the other family members still staying in the villages. The men are responsible for dropping the disabled children in early morning at 5:00am at the gates of food market, waiting for the ladies/grandpas to come to buy food. These people are mostly kind and simple, believing their money could save the poor children’s lives. In the day the men are responsible for moving the beggars to other better places in the city, staying with them and harvesting money from the plates. At lunch, the children will appear at the gates of the factories. Those workers are mostly from the countryside and are easily convinced to help with changes. At 5:00 PM, these men relocate the children to the night markets and the children will be left there begging until mid night, 2:00am for example because that’s the time most eaters will go home. They are also responsible for threatening both the beggars and curious people of course.
Some children are over 5 years old, and they could try to contact their families, or find the police. To avoid this, these people would make sure they cannot talk, or become too scared to talk. The little babies are drugged to sleep in the street so that they do not make noise or cry for mommy. Mr. Xiuyong Wong said these babies are not likely to survive. When the beggar group head saw that one little beggar is too sick to survive. He/she would be dumped in a garbage bin/pile. No one passing by would want to pick such a burden home to try to treat them. Mr. Wong saw this happened in 2002. A 4-5 year old baby beggar was very sick, the head tried to extend his/her life but without spending much money. He would like the baby to be constantly sick for many years to make more money. Finally the baby is dying. He didn’t want to see the baby dying in his place so he dumped the baby in a river side park, even though the baby had been making money for him for 3 years and it was quite a fortune.
Almost all of the beggar groups Mr. Wong described are from two provinces: Henan and Anhui, which are both to the west of Shanghai and the south of Beijing. In China such criminal activities can be like an industry in a certain province. For example, most of the stowaway attempts take place in Fujian Province. And when Chinese sees a Xinjiang Ulghur people in the street, they will be warned by his friends to hold their wallets tightly. I personally have seen three young people from Fujian Province tried to get to the USA and Europe from Nepal using fake passports. And I have translated documents for a young girl from that province years ago who just relocated to my province Hunan before her application to the USA. Because everybody knows that people from certain provinces like Helongjiang and Fujian are more likely to be rejected to enter the USA by the embassy, so they invest in a fortune to relocate and get registered in another city through buying an apartment, etc, to become a more qualified applicant. And yes I have my wallet stolen by a Xinjiang Ulghur man in the street of Changsha years ago, who was walking with a young Ulghur boy which was used to make the pair less suspicious. I still remember a shop owner in that street was laughing at me afterwards: “Hey, glasses boy. Your wallet is gone!” He couldn’t warn me at the time because he was worried that the pick-pockets gang would threaten him by ruining his shop.
Among the children, some 7-10 years old tend to be naughty or restless. Mr. Xiu saw such a boy was abused/beaten by the beggar group head really hard. The boy’s head was bumped into a rock on the ground and started to bleed. He asked the man who he knew to show mercy. That man wouldn’t listen and started to fight with him. Both men had drunk quite a bit, Mr. Wong stood up and went to the local police office. But the local police officer said to him: “This is none of our business, you are part of the beggar groups, mind your own business.” Mr. Wong had to leave.
He went to the local civil administration department of that town called Shjie, was told that he should go to the asylum which was managed by this department (Asylums were transformed into salvation stations one year later). No government or police offices wanted to get involved.
Before such transformation and change of laws in 2003, the only solution was to catch the beggars and send them back to their hometowns, of course that didn’t work out well because most of them couldn’t survive in their hometowns. In 2003 the salvation stations started to provide help and a shelter instead of sending them back home, but the condition is the beggars need to walk to their stations at will. So many of the controlled beggars cannot enjoy this policy and get help. Other individual adult beggars like Mr. Xiuyong Wong does not need such salvation stations as they can make a almost decent living being in the street. So China still needs a better solution.
The Chinese people are willing to provide help but they cannot rely on or trust the government for obvious reasons. We have lost faith in charity organizations like Red Cross too because we now know that Red Cross is also very corrupted. A huge portion of the donation went to the pockets of the executives. I organized the villagers last year to donate warm clothes to the children in Tibet, but the person who is supposed to relay the 20 boxes of winter clothes to the Tibetan children living in a remote county only returned a text message: “I do not receive donation of clothes anymore.” That means they only receive donation of money and god knows how he is going to use the money. Later I read on the internet that all our donated clothes are sold in the street.
Phoenix TV’s conclusion: the issue of children beggar and abuse is caused by this: the government administrated charity groups for the right of women and children could get involved but they do not have the authority; the civil affairs department say they do not have the authority of law implement; the public security department/police have such authority but they say they need to be reported of any crime before they assign police officers to a case. Where are the procuratorate? you may ask. Well, I do not know. What I know is, the civil affairs department is the government who is supposed to solve the problem.
I was trying to locate the video. Somehow it is missing on Phoenix TV’s official website, but showed up on Youtube, for obvious reasons. The official website is open to the people in China but Youtube is blocked by the government.