China Beggars Caged, Government 'Treating People as Dogs,' Say Critics

China's beggars were caged during the annual Xishan Wanshou Palace Temple Fair by authorities, and Chinese citizens are outraged at the practice. Organizers of the Sept. 15 fair didn't want the beggars to interfere with the many tourists, but critics say they went too far.

China beggars- more than 100 total- were sealed behind a 165-foot-long cage-like fence to prevent them from interacting with the hundreds of thousands of visitors. Xishan, located in China's southern Jiangxi province, had officials who rounded up the homeless and beggars; they made sure to mention that the poor people volunteered to be temporarily banned from the area, however.

"In order to avoid accidents, we provided this temporary rescue shelter whose two exits are open. All the beggars voluntarily entered it," the Xinjan government said via its Sina Weibo microblogging account.

Still, many viewed the act as a violation of human rights and an example of China's unjust treatment towards many citizens.

"Our government always boasts that China has the best record on human rights. Before I did not believe that, but today I am convinced," one blogger wrote on Weibo, the Twitter-like service exclusively used by Chinese. "These officials are just too smart, treating people as dogs."

Indeed, when pictures were released of the people behind bars- many of them with bowls for passerby to drop spare change- some said they invoked treatment befitting animals, not citizens.

"It's just like a zoo. This is trampling their dignity," another Sina Weibo user posted.

"This is intolerable. Beggars are human beings, too!" wrote another.

Government officials have attempted to highlight what they felt was the necessity for the caging of beggars, reminding critics that they provided them with free water, food, and protection from the sun. Mr. Wan, of the civil affairs office, even suggested that the beggars were being kept out of harm's way.

"We had to consider both sides: the pilgrims and the beggars. There are some fake beggars who just want to trick money from pilgrims" Wan told NBC news. "We did see the pilgrims were harassed by such beggars in the past. On the other hand, the temple fair is so crowded that beggars might be hit by cars or trampled by the crowd."

Apparently, the 200,000 pilgrims estimated to be in attendance at the fair were not in the same danger. The discrepancy was not lost on the many outraged by the practice.

"Despite any reasons they may have, the moment the government locked the beggars in the cage, they had already stripped away these people's dignity," one Weibo user posted.