It’s not uncommon to see beggars on subways in China.
China’s beggars make five times the average wage, report says
Almost everyone has encountered grandmas holding hands of their blind sons and handicapped men singing sad songs on loudspeakers.
It’s something Chinese police and subway authorities want to stamp out. There are numerous urban legends that begging can be extremely lucrative.
A local media report revealed last week that professional beggars who prowl the subway network of Wuhan, a major city in central China, are taking home up to $63 a day.
That’s five times the national average working wage.
Wuhan’s police and subway authorities have launched a campaign to hit back at those who make their living scrounging cash from commuters, Chutian Metropolis Daily reported.
Although begging on public transport is illegal in China, the size of the fine for doing so varies from place to place.
In Wuhan, it’s just $8.
With such a minimal deterrent, the authorities’ new idea adopts a carrot and stick approach by offering beggars immunity from a financial penalty for their first offence, as long as they sign an agreement to pay a fine of $32 if they are caught a second time.
However, many of the beggars who opted for the sign now, pay later deal were spotted back on the subway’s platforms the very next morning, the report said.
One of the regulars was quoted as saying that he usually made between $47 and $63 a day.
The beggars targeted the busiest lines, he said, although they avoided the morning and evening rush hours because at those times the trains were so full it made it difficult to move from carriage to carriage.
Previous media reports have noted that China’s most successful beggars can make as much as $160 a day.
And many feign illness or affect a disability to in a bid to win more attention and sympathy.
According to a news report from 2014, a man in Nanjing, capital of eastern China’s Jiangsu province, made so much money from begging over an eight-year period that he could afford to buy two flats in the most expensive parts of the city.
China’s beggar problem
By Xinyan Yu, Inkstone reporter
When I was a child, my mother once gave away my shirt to a little girl of the same age living under a footbridge who could not afford to buy clothes.
That was a time when many people didn’t have much. There was a lot more empathy for beggars, because they were not known to trick people.
Now almost every child grows up being told not to trust a beggar’s stories.
The worst cases are beggar gangs, who abduct people – often children – and maim them to win more sympathy and money on the streets.
Chinese media have even reported on brochures selling handicapped people among these gangs, with a different price tag for different levels of disabilities.
Those who coerce or organize the handicapped or minors to beg can face up to seven years in prison. But many think the punishment is not serious enough for the nature of the crime.