If you’ve been in China you’ve also probably encountered a beggar asking you for ’money, money, money!’
There are a lot of different kinds of beggars over here. I’d say the majority are old women/men, but then there are also fairly young women that walk around with a small kid in their arms (often around night time) and wants you to give them money (and if you don’t they often run after you). Then there are people with disabilities…. Men who are missing a leg, or an arm, or children with defamed faces. You often see them at the Shanghai metro.
Yesterday evening I was walking along Guan Qian Jie in Suzhou when an old woman came up to me, started pulling my arm and asked me for money. I was walking together with my Chinese friend, who quickly pulled me the other way, frowned and walked on.
-Oh, those people, you never give them money do you?
-Eh… ehum… well…
Yeah, that’s the thing. I sometimes do. I cannot help it. My heart bleeds for homeless people. When I lived in London I used to give both food and money to some homeless men that always sat outside our living complex (although one guy was funny –once I gave him a sandwich that he took, looked at and gave back to me, and said: “I don’t like eggs!”).
Here in China, I don’t give beggars money on an every day basis, but sometimes it happens. I never give anything to the women with kids because I have heard so many stories about them working for someone and that they give the kids sleeping pills so that they are going to look really groggy and miserable (having said that, I have no idea where all of those stories come from –so who knows what is the real truth?!). Also, people that pull me or push a jar on me never get anything either. I only give to a number of people: an old lady outside the Suzhou train station who’s always there, day or night. And then this man who often sits close to the gate of our complex. He never says anything but his whole face shines when I give him a few kuais of my change.
When I told my friend this she frowned and told me that I shouldn’t give them money because they are all ‘fake.’
-They are working for someone! Or, they are already really rich! They probably have more money than you and me!
-Really, you think so??!
-Yeah, and those ones that are missing a leg or an arm… some of them are fake too.
-How can they be fake?!
-They are wearing this artificial limb to actually cover their real arm…
My friend was so sure but when I asked her where she got this information from she became all ‘ehhh, ahhh, well… everybody knows that’ which makes me question what the real deal is.
I have heard numerous stories about the beggars, where the most common one is that they are working for someone who provides them with food and housing as long as they spend the days on the street asking for money. Now my friend told me that they are ‘rich’ and they do this as a ‘profession’…. Hm… I somehow find that hard to believe?!
Then again, who knows what the real deal is? Probably no one but themselves. None of us has been begging on the street so all this information telling us it’s like this or like that is just… words, rumors and ‘information’ that no one can confirm or ‘prove’ to be real. There are probably a good mix of ‘real’ and ‘fake’ ones out there.
I remember once when I was walking on a street in Shanghai and two Chinese women, wearing normal clothes (one of them had a kid) came towards me, chatting, laughing. When the woman with the kid saw me she suddenly stopped, pushed her kid forward, reached out her hand and said (with clear English): ‘hey, give me some money!’ I was so angry I didn’t know what to do, but simply walked on. Definitely a ‘fake’ one. But the rest of them? Yeah, who knows?