Caring Face Fails to Dispel Charges of Orphan Abuse Claims Orphan Abuse Claim S Officials Struggle to Dent Orphan Abuse Claims Orphanage Officials Fail to Dispel Abuse Claims Charge
Poole, Teresa, The Independent (London, England)
First there was the group tour of the physiotherapy centre, the computer room and a chance to sit in on morning lessons at the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute, where well-fed, brightly clothed infants were being looked after by tender child-care workers.
Then came the repeated denials from officials about last weekend's accusations from Human Rights Watch (HRW) that babies and children within this orphanage faced deliberate starvation and physical abuse until 1993. "A big lie," said Han Weicheng, formerly director of the orphanage between 1989 and 1994, when asked about the report's data.
And finally, there was the only hard number that could be wrung from Mr Han despite hours of questioning. In 1989, he admitted, the mortality rate in the orphanage was about 19 per cent, the highest he could recall. "Because that year was very cold and we had an electricity failure." he added. The figure given by HRW for the same year, quoting Chinese government documents, was 22.7 per cent.
It was always going to be a difficult morning for the officials, faced with a group of foreign correspondents on a Foreign Ministry-organised tour of the Shanghai orphanage cited in the allegations of alarming death- rates. The government had been anxious that we should visit, especially if we had television cameras.
This was China's showcase orphanage, the one where, according to our hosts, never a week went by without foreign visitors, where foreign donations accounted for between one-sixth and one-third of funding, and where overseas couples come to adopt a Chinese child. But that was just as the HRW report itself had described it, claiming the institute had been sanitised in mid-1993.
Our group, however, wanted to talk about the situation before 1993. Could they provide annual figures for deaths so that these could be compared with evidence provided to HRW by Zhang Shuyun, a former doctor at the orphanage who fled China last year?
The hundreds of pages of orphanage records she smuggled out show, for instance, that 153 infants and children died between December 1988 and December 1989, and 207 died between November 1991 and October 1992. The capacity of the orphanage has always been about 500. "Actually," explained Mr Han, "many children when they arrive here are almost dead." The abandoned children's poor state of health on arrival was to blame for the deaths, officials repeatedly said.
Were they saying that the source documents reproduced in the HRW report were false? "I don't know, I have not seen the report," Mr Shi said, although Mr Han admitted seeing a table from the report.
The officials produced statistics that clashed with the …
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Publication information: Article title: Caring Face Fails to Dispel Charges of Orphan Abuse Claims Orphan Abuse Claim S Officials Struggle to Dent Orphan Abuse Claims Orphanage Officials Fail to Dispel Abuse Claims Charge. Contributors: Poole, Teresa - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 9, 1996. Page number: 6. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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