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TWO women accused of using young children from China’s rural areas to steal in Shanghai’s suburban districts will be tried for organizing minors to engage in activities against the social security.
Prosecutors in Qingpu District said the suspects rented “child pickpockets,” usually aged around 6, at more than 50,000 yuan (US$7,200) a year from their parents.
The children’s families were last seen in Daoxian County in central China’s Hunan Province, where having more children than average was the norm and renting them out had become an industry.
Prosecutors said the two suspects, Song Yincui and Song Yinxiu, both in their 30s, had rented at least three children. But they were down to one girl when they were caught in May.
The other two that were known about were either “too inexpert to succeed” or “too skilled and thus too expensive to afford,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors learnt from family planning officials in Daoxian that the remaining girl, identified as Wenwen, was the fifth child of her 30-year-old mother, who had given birth to her sixth child this year.
Wenwen and one of her siblings were “black population,” the prosecutors said, and did not have hukou, China’s system for registering places of residence. Local authorities were searching for the children’s family.
In talks with Wenwen, prosecutors learnt that she didn’t know how old she was and she had never attended kindergarten. Physical check-ups showed she was probably aged 6 or 7 but tests showed her mental development to be that of a 4-year-old.
Wenwen told prosecutors that “aunties” had taught her the game of “hide and seek,” which she enjoyed.
During the daytime, she followed them into stores and took the chance to take out wallets or phones from bags belonging to shop assistants when they were serving or chatting with “aunties.”
“We don’t want domestic phones. We just like iPhones,” she told prosecutors.
She would be given candies if she succeeded, but if she failed, she would be beaten, prosecutors added.
They said the two women had been caught by police 11 times from 2006 to 2011 for the same crime. But they insisted they were innocent and had escaped punishment due to lack of evidence.
They were suspected of involving the three children in 10 thefts in Qingpu, Songjiang and Jiading districts, prosecutors said.
The women would be tried for organizing minors to engage in activities against the social security instead of theft because they had “stained” the children.
The crime was added to the amended Criminal Law in 2009. It imposes jail terms of three to seven years for repeated criminals, but theft convictions only carried jail terms of less than three years, prosecutors said.
They added that family planning officials in Daoxian had launched a crackdown on the “evil industry” and meanwhile great efforts were being made to find the parents who had rented out their children.
Prosecutors said the parents could be stripped of their guardianship and might be brought to court.