Crippled beggars with disfigured faces are usually found in the streets of Malacca and other tourist hotspots in Malaysia. The unfortunate sight was made even more so after an investigation discovered that the beggars are slaves to a large organised gang run by two Chinese brothers.
They have reportedly been begging for money from local and foreign tourists visiting the historic city and other spots, an investigation of a local news outlet revealed.
The gang, which is found to have several local accomplices in Malaysia, has a large network in China with operations in several Chinese districts such as Dongguan and Zhengzhou, The Star reported. Using tourist visas, the crippled individuals are allegedly brought by the Chinese syndicate to Malaysia to beg in several tourist areas in the country.
After a day’s worth of begging, the beggars surrender the collected money to the local gang leaders and are then placed in homeshare rooms, just like common tourists.
Investigations by local news outlet The Star found two beggars stationed at the Jonker Walk on Friday night converging with the rest of the crew of “30 physically disabled and disfigured individuals” at a budget hotel in Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
The research team then witnessed a “burly looking man, believed to be one of the brothers”, collecting the money from the beggars.
In an interview with two of the beggars conducted with the help of a Mandarin-speaking local restaurant worker, The Star learned more about the gang’s operation.
Identifying himself only as Xiu Yuan, 33, one of the beggars claimed he used to be healthy and able but was crippled by the organised crime gang in China.
“It’s a large and powerful gang with connections in Malaysia that keeps watch on us,” he claimed.
Xiu Yuan further stated that the gang crippled him when he was a child and was held captive for many years before being sent to travel to be a professional beggar.
Senior beggars are only allowed to travel abroad after earning the trust of the Chinese gang leader known as “Tahkeh.”
“Back in China, there are many beggars who are suffering in the clutches of this gang,” he added.
The beggar revealed that the Malaysian group is being handled by the younger brother who sends in a new batch every month.
“After two months, we come back here and continue begging. We have been doing this for many years,” he said.
Another beggar, who identified himself as Do Feng for the interview, is 30 years old and reportedly from Zhengzhou. He said that the leader conducts a weekly meeting with them to assign them to chosen locations.
“Sometimes, if we are assigned to Malacca, we stay for two days at a house in Kota Laksamana that is rented by the leader. We come back to Petaling Street after we have collected what is expected of us,” Do Feng said.
To reach the tourist spots in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru, the leader would hire taxis.
Dong Feng said each could “earn” as much as 3000 Malaysian Ringgit ($711) during weekends, with the leaders taking half of the amount, plus the taxi fare. They get to keep the rest.
“We travel in taxis and the fare is taken care of by our leader. Our job is to collect a minimum of RM 1,200 ($285) a day after going out of our base in Petaling Street,” he said.
Dong Feng revealed that they have come to consider Malaysia as their second home and they would frequently visit and even stay for about a month before returning to China. After a long day begging, they would usually unwind at massage parlors.
“Because we are crippled, masseuses would never want to get close to us. We need to pay more for their services,” he said.