Protecting the welfare of China's orphans

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The Independent Online
The Chinese Embassy in the UK deeply regrets the report of Human Rights Watch/Asia, which made groundless accusations against China.

China attaches great importance to the healthy development of children. It protects the legitimate rights and improves the welfare of children, especially those of orphans and the disabled, through legislative, judicial and administrative means. The Chinese government has been taking concrete measures to protect the rights of infants, including training of childcare personnel and providing material and financial resources.

Take the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute, for example. At the end of 1994, the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute had 402 orphans. It accepted 202 new orphans that year but 183 left the orphanage. Among them, five found their parents, 124 were adopted, 10 became employed and formed their own families, 36 shifted to other orphanages and eight died. At the end of 1995 the total in the orphanage stood at 517. During that year, 276 new orphans were accepted and 166 left. Among them, 139 were adopted, 17 were shifted to other orphanages and 10 died.

The majority of orphans in the Shanghai Orphanage were those who had lost their parents as a result of natural disasters or unexpected incidents, those who were mentally or physically retarded and unrecoverably disabled, and those who were abandoned by their parents. The orphanage also took temporary care of those children who lost their way because of their parents' carelessness.

Some babies were in a critical condition when they came to the orphanage, and some were about to die. The orphans were given prompt medical treatment. Thanks to such efforts, the mortality rate in the past few years has remained around 4 per cent. The allegation that 1,000 children have died of unnatural death in the orphanage is nothing but fabrication.

The allegation that children were abused in the Shanghai Orphanage is also groundless. The Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute follows a policy of combining raising, treating and educating orphans. Medical treatment is sufficient. Eighty-seven disabled children received hospital operations for congenital heart disease and other ailments and, as a result, are now leading normal lives. Those who had movement difficulties were treated with both Chinese and Western medical methods, and the recovery rate reached 90 per cent.

Children with disabled limbs but normal mental ability were sent to school when they reached school age. The blind, deaf and dumb children were sent to special schools. Thirty-two children are now attending ordinary schools. To strengthen the education of these children, two teachers are assigned for after-school coaching and supervision.

On 1 June 1993, a school was set up in the orphanage with different classes for children with learning difficulties, pre-school children and primary school children. All these measures guarantee the legitimate rights of disabled children in the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute.

As a developing country, China has made tremendous efforts in setting up social welfare institutes and improving the living conditions for the children in these institutes and it will continue to do so in the future.

The writer is counsellor (press) at the Chinese Embassy.