TV evidence may harm charity work

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The Independent Online

The screening of a British documentary which exposes the systematic abuse of babies in Chinese state orphanages could do the children more harm than good, according to charity workers.

The Channel 4 documentary Return to the Dying Rooms, due to be shown tonight, promises shocking new evidence that children are being deliberately neglected and allowed to die. It follows a documentary about an orphanage in Nanning, shown last summer, which elicited condemnation of the Chinese authorities.

But according to the director of Mother's Choice, an international charity based in Hong Kong and one of the few allowed to work in Chinese orphanages, the documentary may cause irreparable damage, with the children likely to be the losers.

"When the last documentary was shown it did a great deal of damage. Some things have still not returned to normal," Gary Stephens said yesterday. "It used to be that our staff in China could go freely into the old orphanage and help. Since the Dying Rooms documentary was put out, only two staff members are now allowed in. [The Chinese] really closed it off."

Six weeks ago the charity opened the first Chinese joint-venture orphanage, also in Nanning, in Guangxi province, where abandoned or orphaned babies arrive at the rate of about 40 a month. The reporters who exposed the "dying rooms" gained access by pretending to work for Mother's Choice and following initialnewspaper reports in 1993 the charity's relationship with the authorities was all but destroyed.

According to Mr Stephens, it took months before charity workers were able go back in.