To protect or humiliate?
Beijing News reports that at this year’s famous Xishan Temple Fair in China’s Jiangxi province, more than 100 beggars were seated in a row on the ground under a shaded area bounded by metal bars.
Below a sign reading “Temporary Rescue Shelter”, beggars old and young sat with bowls placed in front of the bars in the hopes of receiving help from the hundreds of thousands of Taoist worshippers who visited the town’s famous temple “Wanshou Gong”.
When pictures of the scene surfaced online after the fair started in mid-September, internet users condemned the treatment as “disrespecting (the beggars’) human dignity, a direct restriction of personal freedom”. Some even called it illegal detainment, while others slammed the beggars’ treatment as inhumane and uncivilised.
Responding to these claims, local media quoted an employee of the temple fair as saying the beggars were enclosed in a demarcated area to prevent visiting worshippers from being cheated by them.
Noting that staff were dedicated to providing the beggars with water and regular meals, the employee also emphasised that their freedom was not at all restricted.
“For example, if they want to use the bathroom, they are allowed to go outside, but if they want to beg, they have to do so inside the metal fencing,” the worker added.
A representative from the Xishan town government office also reportedly explained they were put behind the cages to protect them from getting trampled on by the crowds.
He said the beggars were “professional” ones who hailed from other towns, and would travel down to spend their time at the fair every year. Many of them were old, weak, ill or disabled, and were not extremely mobile, with some of them lying on the ground most of the time as well.
Also weighing in on the issue was a Xinjian County government representative, who said they encouraged beggars to go into the fenced up area on a voluntary basis. Further, the newspaper reported that Xishan’s bureau of Civil Affairs later on gave them transport fare money and sent them home.
Watch a video on what happened here:
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