A seven-year-old girl and a pregnant woman have been arrested in southern China who were allegedly forced into stealing in markets by a crime gang, according to a newspaper report.

The girl took part in a series of thefts in Hainan province and each time was accompanied by a different pregnant woman recruited in another area of southern China, the Legal Daily reported.

The girl said she was forced to steal and if she failed she would be beaten.

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The seven-month pregnant woman said she was not the girl’s mother and the authorities in Qionghai in Hainan island are trying to trace the child’s guardian, according to the article.

Surveillance video footage showed the woman talking to a vegetable booth owner’s to distract him while the girl stole his wallet from the counter. About 2,500 yuan (HK2,800) was inside.

The woman and the girl were arrested at the scene.

It was the fourth theft case involving a child and a pregnant woman in local wet markets over the past two months, the local police authority was quoted as saying. The girl was involved in all the crimes, with different partners.

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The woman in the latest incident said she was from Yongzhou in Hunan province and the gang leader had organised many other pregnant women from her home town to come to Hainan to steal.

Three other women have returned to Hunan to give birth.

Yongzhou has launched a crackdown against gangs organising pregnant woman to steal outside the city over the past year, the article said. Forty-five suspects have been arrested.


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