Chinese police have detained the vice-principal of a school for deaf-mutes and other special needs children for selling 10 students to a ring that trained them to become pickpockets, the Guizhou Metropolitan Daily reported.
Police rescued the victims, the youngest of whom was 12, in Jiangxi and Henan provinces this month, the online edition of the newspaper said.
They went missing from their school in Liupanshui city, Guizhou, last month, the newspaper said, adding that the ring trained and required each person to steal and turn in 500 yuan ($A79) a day.
Zhu Xiangyu, 52, vice-principal of the school and vice-president of Liupanshui's Deaf-Mute Association, and four other suspects were taken into police custody.
Hundreds of deaf-mute students had gone missing since 2005, the newspaper said.
China has about 1.8 million deaf-mutes aged 18 or younger, many of whom are unable to obtain an education or steady work.
Police vowed this month to crack down on gangs that exploit deaf-mute youths, highlighting the hardship of disabled people in a society that gives them little state support, especially in poor rural areas.
Earlier this month, the Legal Daily reported that police in Hunan province broke up a gang of gun-wielding deaf-mute robbers who police said were behind hundreds of armed robberies across the country.
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