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Gangs, delinquency a big problem for migrant children

2014-07-14 10:55 Shanghai Daily Web Editor: Si Huan

Huang Wenjun, 63, and her husband finally saved enough money to return to their hometown in Jiangsu Province, buy a small flat and play with their grandchild.

Just when the couple thought life was about to reward them with happiness, the grievous news came. Their son, Sun Qiang, 26, was killed by a mob.

The couple brought Sun from their hometown to Shanghai when he was 12. They did laborious construction work and put him in a local primary school. But Sun was never welcomed as a new member of the class. That's because he stole his peers' things and sometimes assaulted them.

At age 16, he took a wrong turn in life and dropped out of school to become a gangster.

Su is among a rapidly increasing number of convicts from migrant families, an unfortunate statistics that shows migrant kids now account for a majority of the city's juvenile delinquency.

More than half of the criminals were jailed for theft, robbery, assault or rape.

Recent statistics from the Shanghai Qingpu District People's Procuratorate showed that from 2009 to 2011, among 253 cases of juvenile delinquency, 85.4 percent of the perpetrators were rural and migrant youths.

Some 60.6 percent of the juvenile criminals came to the city since their parents began to work here. More than a half of the convicts had dropped out of school.

Like Sun, they are often left alone, are poorly supervised and run an extremely high risk of becoming involved in criminal activities.

"He always felt inferior in front of the class and we rarely had time talking to him. When his adviser told me the first time that my son stole a watch, I thought as long as I return it back, it was no big deal," Huang, his mother, tells Shanghai Daily.

The reasons migrant young people are likely to get into trouble are closely related to their status and relative poverty.

Published last month in the run-up to the Children's Day, a white paper looked at crimes committed in Beijing in 2013. Of 1,097 cases, 77.4 percent of the perpetrators had received little or no education.

Without a proper hukou, or household registration, from their new city, migrant teenagers are usually barred from attending high schools. Shanghai in 2010 had 570,000 migrant children aged 15 to 19 who were ineligible for high school education.

Also, since the migrant parents usually have to work almost non-stop, their children have no guardian.

They also appear more susceptible to trouble in the first place.

The Center for Children's Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility, a Beijing partner of Save the Children Sweden, conducted a survey that indicated that 60 percent of left-behind children felt their parents were "not around" when they needed support.

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