Parents should be temporarily deprived of their custody rights if they are found renting out their children to beg or perform on the streets, a leading activist against child begging said.
Yu Jianrong, an initiator for an ongoing campaign to crack down on child begging, made the suggestion following reports that the legal guardians of seven children rented them out to perform acrobatics on the streets in South China's Hainan province.
"Children cannot be used as tools to make profit, so I think if their parents or guardians break this rule then they should be punished," Yu told China Daily on Monday.
The police in Hainan's Sanya city caught two adults and nine child beggars in a market following a tip-off last Thursday, local media reported. Seven of the children came from Henan province and most of them were under the age of 10.
With the help of their counterparts in Hainan province, the police in Taikang county, Henan province, launched an investigation into the children's identities and family backgrounds.
Several government officials from Taikang county flew to Sanya on Sunday, planning to take the seven children back.
"Those children were not abducted, they are acrobats," said Li Wei, a police station director at Taikang told Henan Business Daily.
He also showed an employment contract, which stated that Zhang Weibing, one of the children found in Sanya, was employed by an acrobatic troupe with a monthly payment of about 1,000 yuan ($152). Zhang's parents had allegedly signed the contract.
"It is illegal to employ people under the age of 16, therefore this kind of contract is not effectual in law," Chen Wei, a Beijing-based lawyer, told China Daily.
"Those parents' behavior definitely should be condemned. However we must be prudent before we say they should be deprived of their custody," Chen said.
Such a punishment seems unfeasible given that China's welfare systems are not well enough established to take care of children whose parents are deprived of parental rights, Chen added.