Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Truth That Tried to Get out Shanghai Leaders with Power to Halt Orphan Abuse Disregarded Critical Reports

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Truth That Tried to Get out Shanghai Leaders with Power to Halt Orphan Abuse Disregarded Critical Reports

Article excerpt

CHINA'S top leaders have a special reason for vehemently denying recent disclosures on the fatal abuse of orphans in Shanghai: Some of them helped cover up the deaths.

For these men, the orphanage scandal is most troubling not as a jolt to China's international prestige, but as potential fodder for political rivals in the succession of elder leader Deng Xiaoping.

Many of China's highest ranking leaders today - including Communist Party head Jiang Zemin, party secretariat chief Zhu Rongju, and politburo members Wu Bangguo and Huang Ju - held top positions in Shanghai during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when some of the worst abuses at the orphanage occurred.

All of these men had the power to halt the "lethal neglect" of hundreds of innocent children documented last month in a report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch. But they either overlooked or concealed reports on the deaths while protecting responsible officials beneath them.

Now, locked in an intensifying succession struggle in Beijing, Mr. Jiang's "Shanghai clique" is determined to deflect attacks on its association with the scandal. If these officials can't run Shanghai, critics charge, how can they run China?

As a journalist based in Shanghai from 1986 until 1992, I witnessed how the city's leaders squelched repeated efforts by Shanghai city councilors, reporters at state-run newspapers, and other Chinese professionals to persuade them to address the problems at the Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute.

For example, five years ago, in 1991, Shanghai city councilor Xu Xinyuan introduced a resolution imploring city leaders to investigate and curb the maltreatment of children, many of whom are disabled, at the orphanage. He was ignored. Mr. Huang was mayor of Shanghai at the time.

That same year, a reporter for the Shanghai Labor News tried to publish an article revealing how underage orphans were illegally forced to work at the institute's tax-exempt enterprises. …

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