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Xinjiang promises to bring all vagrant children home

04-22-2011 16:22 BJT

URUMQI, April 22 (Xinhua) --- Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has promised to find and bring home all native Xinjiang children who are straying in other parts of the country, some of whom are stealing or begging for a living.

From April 23 to May 1, the regional government will send teams of investigators to search for vagrant children in 19 provinces and municipalities that regularly offer aid to Xinjiang, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, Xinjiang's top official Zhang Chunxian said Thursday.

"We'll work closely with these provinces and cities. We hope to bring these children back at an earlier date," said Zhang, secretary of the Xinjiang regional committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

He said the regional government will also send more teams to other parts of China.

Once sent back, the children will be placed in government-run shelters for their protection, according to Zhang, adding they will also receive schooling.

The move is aimed at helping Xinjiang's vagrant children resume normal lives and restore the region's reputation, as the far western region is notoriously known as a source of "young robbers and thieves" in many cities.

"Talking about Xinjiang, we all know its beautiful landscape, as well as the thieves who roam the streets of my city," said Qu Weili, an office staff in Wenzhou, a rich coastal city in eastern Zhejiang Province.

Qu said that she has had her purse stolen three times by vagrant children from Xinjiang.

Despite the region's notoriety, many citizens also sympathized with the youngsters. "They are victims themselves," said Li Yongliang, a resident of Taiyuan, capital of northern Shanxi Province.

Li said he once saw a boy try and fail to steal a man's wallet. "He was later slapped on the face by a middle-aged woman who seemed to be his employer. He was about 10 years old and looked like a Uyghur [a Xinjiang ethnic minority]."

It is unclear how many stray children from Xinjiang are roaming around China, but according to the regional government's relief office, about 3,000 are sent back to Xinjiang every year.

A report from the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences said at least 90 percent of these children are kidnapped victims. Most of them are from underdeveloped areas in southern Xinjiang, including Hotan, Aksu and Kashi, where child trafficking is rampant.

Many of these children receive little schooling and are too young to give detailed addresses or contact information to authorities.

When these children are caught stealing in the city, there is little police can do because the children are underage. Many of them do not speak or understand Mandarin Chinese.

This year, Xinjiang plans to spend 50 million yuan (7.7 million U.S. dollars) on a training center for vagrant children. Minors who are mentally healthy and willing to learn can receive free education and training, the relief office said in a statement.

"We will step up cooperation with technical schools in Xinjiang in the hopes that these youngsters can continue their education later on," it said.

Over the past five years, the central government has spent 34.6 million yuan on 15 shelters, which can accommodate more than 1,500 vagrant children in Hotan, Kashi and Asku.

Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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