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Network to Be Launched to Track Vagrants

The Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security have jointly developed a national vagrant information management network linked to the household registration systems across the country, according to Zhang Mingliang, director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs' Department of Construction of Basic-Level Government and Community. Zhang was speaking at a working conference held in Beijing on Wednesday.

Trial operation will begin in April next year and the system will go into full operation on August 1 to mark the second anniversary of the introduction of the Measures on Aid and Management of Urban Vagrants and Beggars.

The new information system will help vagrants and lost people find their way home and distinguish the real homeless and helpless from people who just take advantage of free food and other aid, according to Zhang.

"More efforts are needed to get aid to the needy more quickly and efficiently," Zhang stated.

As of the end of November, the country's 909 aid stations and centers had provided help to more than 670,000 urban vagrants and beggars, including more than 114,000 children and youngsters and roughly 130,000 elderly people.

Zhang stated that there are an increasing number of street children who run away from home or are forced to work or beg for criminal gangs.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has earmarked 25.0 million yuan (US$3.0 million) this year to establish special aid centers for street children. The ministry estimates that there were at least 150,000 children under the age of 16 living on the streets in each of the past three years.

Many aid stations for vagrants, including those in Hebei, Guangdong, Shandong, Hubei and Henan provinces, have established special centers for street children.

Zhang said that the proclivity of some homeless people to continue roaming the streets instead of going to shelters, thus posing a potential threat to cities' security, was a puzzle for civil affairs offices.

The country introduced the Measures on Aid and Management of Urban Vagrants and Beggars in 2003. The program provides free aid to urban vagrants, replacing the 20-year-old Regulation on Detention and Deportation of Vagrants and Beggars.

(China Daily December 23, 2004)

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