Anti-beggar campaign kicks off in Beijing

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Beijing, Jan 4: Beijing police have launched a campaign to clear the city"s streets of beggars to create a “civilised and sound" environment for the August Olympic Games, state media reported Thursday.

Officers will patrol the city 24 hours a day, looking not just for beggars, but also peddlers, pamphlet distributors and tricycle taxi drivers who ply their trades without licences, the Beijing Morning Post reported. “They"ll have nowhere to hide," the paper said after the launch of the campaign at a ceremony Wednesday in front of the city"s military museum. Police will focus on Chang"an Avenue, the city"s main boulevard, as well as six key districts, meting out punishments, including detentions, depending on the severity of the violations, it reported. “The campaign is aimed at uprooting illegal activities that tarnish the city"s image and affect the social order and to build up a 'harmonious, civilised and sound" urban environment for the Olympic Games," said senior police official Yu Hongyuan, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

It is not the first time Beijing authorities have vowed to rid the city of its beggars ahead of the city"s hosting of the Olympics, an event China is using to showcase its economic rise of the past three decades. Authorities made a similar pledge in March last year, with little apparent effect, as beggars are still a fixture of the Beijing cityscape. Beggars were a rare sight in Chinese cities until about 20 years ago, when economic reform and a loosening of social controls allowed a massive influx of migrants from rural areas. In 2006, Chinese media said Beijing authorities also planned to expel migrant workers from the city before the Olympics as part of their efforts to show the best possible image, but officials denied the reports. Aside from kicking beggars off the streets, Beijing authorities have tried to spruce up the city"s image by running campaigns to stop citizens spitting, littering and jumping queues.

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