- Temple fair in Nanchang, Jiangxi place beggars in ‘zoo-like’ cages
- Ceiling of cages so low the ‘inmates’ are forced to sit
- If the beggars chose to leave they are banished from the city
By Sara Malm
PUBLISHED:08:05 EST, 19 September 2012| UPDATED:13:16 EST, 19 September 2012
Beggars at a religious folk festival in southern China have been ordered to stay in purposely built cages, or be removed from the festivities.
Organisers gave the beggars an ultimatum saying their presence ruins the experience for visitors at the temple fair in Nanchang, Jiangxi province and if they wished to beg they had to do so from inside small cages.
The zoo-like cages are so small adults are unable to stand and although they are free to leave at will, they are immediately banished from the festival area and have to leave the town if they do so.
Due to the thousands of visitors it has become a magnet for down-and-outs looking for charity from tourists.
‘This year we decided we would no longer accept beggars wandering everywhere, distressing our guests and spoiling it for everyone else,’ explained one organiser before adding that no one is forcing them to beg and that they have voluntarily entered the cages.
‘Over the last few years we have had increasing numbers of beggars turning up at the festival and it was becoming very intruding for our visitors. They were being harassed and made to feel uncomfortable.
‘We had no choice but to ban them from the grounds. We found the cages a good solution for everyone. People can still give them donations if they desire too but are not harassed and followed around the festival when they are having a day out with their families.
‘The beggars are quite comfortable in their cages, people send them food and water as gifts. In a way it is better for them there than having to find a place on the busy streets.’
‘The beggars can leave whenever they like but they have to leave the city too, they can’t go into the fair,’ they added.
The cages have infuriated human rights campaigners in China who have branded them a human zoo saying it breaches human rights.
‘They are treating them like zoo animals. What will they have to do next – tricks for their food?,’ one said. ‘This is nothing less than public humiliation.’
‘Do they want people to believe the region has no poor people and just put on a good show? These people need help. We should not be allowing them to be locked away in cages. These people are human beings too.’
Many pilgrims who had some to enjoy the fair, but most importantly honour the religious holiday, were outraged by the treatment of the beggars.
Lu Cheng who was visiting the temple with his family said: ‘I was horrified to see these poor people in cages. We came for a nice day out with the family, but it was distressing to see fellow humans kept like animals in a cage.
‘These people deserve better treatment and should be able to visit the festival just like everyone else. If people decide to give them food, money or water that is up to them.’
Traditionally people visited the temple to pay their sacrifices to Buddhist gods.
Thousands of people from many different provinces make the pilgrimage to the temples and due to its popularity the nearby town has turned the event into a fair with folk shows, traditional foods, markets with local delicacies and attractions for children.