The Description and Accusations About
China's Children's Welfare Institutions by
Britain's Channel Four and the Human Rights
Watch/Asia Do Not Hold Water
The British commercial television station Channel Four broadcast ``Secret Asia, the Dying Rooms'' on June 14, 1995, and ``Return to the Dying Rooms'' (a refurbished version of the former) on January 9, 1996. Using clumsy tricks, the programs stated that in China's children's welfare homes there were dying rooms where children were abused to death. An investigation proved that the so-called dying rooms in the program ``Secret Asia, the Dying Rooms'' refer actually to a warehouse in the Huangshi City Social Welfare Home in Hubei Province and that the major part of the program is fabricated.
Kate Blewett, producer of the program, and others visited the Huangshi welfare home, disguising themselves as staff members of the American Children's Fund. After Blewett, et al arrived, recalled Liu Qiuliang, nurse of the welfare home, she found one of the foreigners, a man, filming in a warehouse at the back of the courtyard. At that time, there were some old beds in that warehouse and some other articles were lying around. The cameraman untied the articles, spread them on the bed and began to shoot. Liu came to the warehouse and asked him what he was doing. He just grunted and came out. This is the warehouse which was later labeled as the ``dying rooms'' in the television program. The ``Dying Rooms'' claimed that in 1994 more than 80 children died in that house. This is sheer fabrication. The welfare home's statistics record and the list of children taken in or identified and adopted shows that there were 161 children in the institution in 1994 and 128 were adopted later in the year. How come more than 80 children died? Claiming that the empty beds formerly used by children who were later adopted or identified and so left the welfare home were the beds of dead children and further referring to the warehouse as the ``dying rooms'' is deliberate distortion of facts.
The ``Dying Rooms'' recounted a story about a ``nameless,'' seriously ill child who was left unattended without any medical treatment, waiting for death. The shots were taken by Blewett and others at Duanzhou District Welfare Home, Zhaoqing City, Guangdong Province. As far as we know, the sick child was found on February 20, 1995 on the street by someone from a local police station; the child was then sent to the welfare home. The child was seriously ill when admitted to the welfare home, and the welfare home immediately gave the child medical treatment. Yang Jinying, the nurse who was responsible for looking after the ``nameless'' child, said that after Blewett and others entered the sick child's room, they told Yang to stay outside. Contrary to fact, the television program claimed that nurses hardly ever went into that room. It was winter and after Blewett and company entered the room, they removed the sick child's warm cotton-batting quilt and unbuttoned the latter's clothes. Yang tried to stop them. She said that it was cold and the child was sick. But Blewett said it did not matter. Wearing a fur coat, Blewett had the sick child stripped to the waist and shot for 15 to 20 minutes. After they finished shooting, they left the child undressed and didn't even cover the latter with the quilt. The sick child later died despite medical treatment. By playing up the condition of the sick child, Blewett and others intended to say that girls were systematically abused to death in the welfare homes. Using wanton fabrication to cheat and mislead viewers cannot but arouse indignation among the people.
The ``Dying Rooms'' made up another ``miserable story'' about a woman's forced abortion. It said that when the police were informed that a certain woman was pregnant with her second child (without having obtained prior permission), she was forced to have an abortion and a sterilization operation. The facts are as follows: The woman, named Xie Lianfeng, lives in Jinyang Village, Yangshuo, Guangxi. Blewett and company followed Xie's mother-in-law to Xie's home and asked Xie how many children she had. When Xie told them she had a boy and a girl, Blewett and others asked if she could have any more children. Xie answered, ``I had a ligation of the oviduct. I cannot bear children now.'' Xie said that she had never had an abortion, nor had her two sisters-in-law who lived with her. When the kind-hearted and honest Xie was told how Blewett, et al distorted her story, she said furiously, ``They are talking rubbish!''
Jiang Zhenghua, council member of the IUSSP, pointed out, ``As far as what we have seen is concerned, of the many things described in the telefilm some are sheerly concocted out of thin air and some are distortions. I felt strange when I saw the film. How could an institution which parades professional ethics for news coverage have produced such a film. Many of my scholar friends are also furious about the film.''
Britt-Marie Nygren, chief executive of the Family Association for Intercountry Adoption, Sweden, said, ``We were furious after we watched this film. There are 130 families in our association that have visited China and adopted children there. Many of them think that this film is an unjust report on China's welfare homes....I have visited many countries and seen their institutions responsible for adoption, so I can compare the conditions at institutions in different countries. That's why I reacted that way to this film's unjust reporting of the situation in China's welfare homes.''
Blewett and others may fabricate lies to cheat some people for sometime, but not for a long time. China, which has opened its door to the outside world, now receives millions of foreign visitors every year. They have opportunities to see the true situation, one which is completely contrary to what's described in the ``Dying Rooms.''
The Human Rights Watch/Asia made a gratuitous accusation in its report, published on January 7, 1996, on the situation of children's welfare homes in China. Many parts of the report are cooked up based on distorted and exaggerated matters.
The censure of the report on the ``maltreatment'' of disabled children by the Shanghai Municipal Welfare Home for Children is not based on facts. The Shanghai children's welfare home is a social welfare charity institution directed by the Shanghai Municipal Government. The institution now oers guardianship and rearing to more than 500 children, most of whom are disabled, including over 100 disabled children entrusted to its care by the society. It has a staff of 320 members, including 42 medical personnel, 23 teachers and 220 nurses. The orphans in the welfare home receive food, medical treatment and education. Regarding the food supply for the orphans, the emphasis is placed on nutrition and nursing; the food menu, designed to meet the needs of growing children, is worked out by a nutritionist according to the physical conditions and ages of the orphans. As a result, the nutritional status of the children is good overall. With regard to medical care and rehabilitation, the welfare home has set up an in-patient department and a children's rehabilitation center. Sick children are taken care of in the welfare home or sent to larger hospitals in the city for treatment, and physical check-ups are conducted for those recovered from illness twice a year. Those who are suitable for rectification are sent to the city's major hospitals to receive the operation. In the last two years 87 disabled children have received surgical operations. Rehabilitative training has been practiced on children suffering from impaired or abnormal motion, with the recovery rate reaching 90 percent.
In education, school-age children with physical deformities but normal mental conditions are sent, at the welfare home's expense, to study in ordinary primary or middle schools, while the blind and deaf-mutes are sent to special schools. There are 32 children who study outside the welfare home. In order to strengthen their education, two teachers are designated to instruct and take care of them after class. In addition, funded by the public, the welfare home has set up a school with 2,500 square meters of floor space and a sportsground of 1,200 square meters to provide the orphaned and disabled children who can not go out to study in ordinary schools with an excellent education environment. Judging from the above, the legal rights of the disabled in the Shanghai children's welfare home are well protected.
The Human Rights Watch/Asia said many parts of its report were written according to data provided by a woman named Zhang Shuyun. It was learned, after investigation, that Zhang Shuyun came to the Shanghai Municipal Welfare Home for Children in September 1988 to work as a laboratory tech"inician for testing liver functions; she left the job in June 1993. During her time there she was criticized a great deal by her leaders for not setting her mind to her work and for disobedience regarding her work arrangement. For this, she harbored resentment and, while she was still an employee of the institution, resorted to fabricating a story about the ``problems'' that existed in the welfare home. After a careful investigation, the allegations present in her report were refuted by the relevant department in Shanghai, but she still quibbled over it, continuing to make up and spread rumors about the leaders of the welfare home and launching personal attacks against them. Dozens of staff members expressed their indignation and jointly criticized her several times. When the party concerned in the matter brought a lawsuit to the court, Zhang Shuyun resigned her post and left for the United States via Hong Kong. In the United States, Zhang continued her prevaricating, spewing stories slandering the work in the Shanghai children's welfare home. Obviously, she did all this with ulterior motives. How can people give credence to the materials provided by such a person for the purpose of slandering China's welfare institutions?
The Human Rights Watch/Asia in its report plays up the photograph of a sick child, claiming the death of the child was caused by his being maltreated in the welfare home. It was learned, after investigation, that the child, given the name of Jianxun by the welfare home, suffered a serious illness caused by mental retardation; after he entered the welfare home, on February 24, 1988, he put on weight under meticulous care and medical treatment. Later, his illness deteriorated and affected the vomiting center, which caused frequent vomiting after feeding. As a result, the patient grew thinner and thinner, but the doctors still persevered in their efforts, feeding him milk and giving intravenous injections. However, because of the serious handicap in his assimilating function, the treatment ended in failure and he died on July 17, 1992. The patient's medical treatment and care can be documented by the medical records kept. Han Weicheng, who was the principal of the children's welfare home at that time and himself a physician with 11 years standing, states that Jianxun's malnutrition was caused by malabsorption resultant from diseases of the central nervous system, certainly not by starvation. That the death of Jianxun was due to deliberate starvation, as claimed by the Human Rights Watch/Asia and Zhang Shuyun, is just a story made up by them to cheat and fool the public.
As for the scene in the photograph where Jianxun's hands are tied up and his chest exposed: Zhou Zhuqing, the present principal, and Han Weicheng, the former principal, of the welfare home deny this ever occurred, pointing out that it would have been utterly illogical to treat Jianxun like that, as there was no need to take any protective, restraining measures on this patient, who was very weak; and there were no signs that he would take any actions to injure himself. Even if there was a case in which a patient needed to be restrained, it would be handled strictly by regular medical means. There has never been a case at the Shanghai children's welfare home in which a patient was tied up with ropes. This photograph was obviously arranged. An investigation into Zhang Shuyun's history shows that she was criticized by her leaders and colleagues at the Shanghai children's welfare home due to her work quality. Later it was found that she often directed one of the young orphans at the welfare home, Ai Ming, to take photographs for her in secret. Before taking pictures Ai Ming put sick children in special poses and asked two bigger children Zhan and Zhai to help him. Zhan later reported that the camera had been supplied by Zhang Shuyun and that Zhai had been told to help to unfasten the clothes of the sick children. Therefore, it is Zhang Shuyun who knows most clearly how the photograph published by the Human Rights Watch/Asia was produced. Would any upright and decent person adopt such despicable means and create such spurious stories and rumors?
The Human Rights Watch/Asia report also alleges that the Shanghai Municipal Welfare Home for Children maltreated their children by transferring dozens of the seriously sick orphans to the Shanghai Second Social Welfare Home on Chongming Island. The fact is that this occurred when the old houses of the children's welfare home needed large-scale renovation. As a result, some of the orphans were sent to the social welfare home temporarily, which was only normal. In fact, the same thing had happened before. Once, for instance, when the houses of a social welfare home for the aged in Shanghai needed major repair, some of the seniors there were transferred to the Shanghai Municipal Welfare Home for Children. Is this the maltreatment of children? The children in the Shanghai children's welfare home are transferred when they grow up at the age of 16. Some are sent out to take up jobs, while some, whose mental retardation prevents them from taking up jobs, are sent to four other welfare institutions in the city or on Chongming Island, the one on Chongming taking in more than those in Shanghai. Obviously, the claim that children with serious illnesses were sent to the social welfare home on Chongming Island, which is alleged in the Human Rights Watch/Asia report, is sheer nonsense.
The report also says that most of the funds slated for China's welfare homes for children are used as sta salaries and bonuses -- and only a small part is used for buying food, clothing and other daily necessities of the children. In fact, the sum for bringing up children in urban welfare institutions of various kinds in China allocated by China's financial departments at different levels in 1994, for instance, totalled 169 million yuan, of which about 40 percent was used for the living expenses of the orphans and disabled children; about 20 percent was spent on equipment maintenance, staff training and daily operating expenses; finally, about 40 percent was used for staff salaries and bonuses and for retirement pensions. From the above figures it can be clearly seen that the claim that most of the funds were used for salaries and bonuses is inaccurate. Moreover, the average monthly living expenses for each child in urban welfare institutions in 1994 was 281.7 yuan, while that for each urban citizen was 264.9 yuan. This shows that the average daily expense for each child in the welfare institutions for buying daily necessities was higher than that of each urban citizen. The accusation of the Human Rights Watch/Asia, therefore, has no ground to stand on.
On January 8, 1996, nearly 30 reporters from 20 news agencies from the United States, Britain, Germany and other countries went to visit the Shanghai Municipal Welfare Home for Children. There they were shown around and talked with some of its staff members for four hours. On January 25, officials from the consulates general in Shanghai of ten countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Japan, visited the Shanghai Second Social Welfare Home. Afterward, American reporters visited it too. What they saw and understood is completely different from that described in the report published by the Human Rights Watch/Asia. When faced with the facts, a lie is always nothing but a lie. Therefore, the description of China's welfare institutions and the accusations hurled at them in the Human Rights Watch/Asia report and the ``Dying Rooms'' telefilm shown by the British commercial TV station Channel Four inevitably have met with criticism and condemnation from people in the United States, Britain and many other countries.
China's children's welfare homes accept visitors and welcome the exchange of experiences as well as cooperation with other countries. Nearly every day people go to visit these institutions; some work as volunteers. It is neither reasonable nor responsible that governments and political figures in some countries should denounce the Chinese Government merely on the basis of the report cooked up and dished out by the Human Rights Watch/Asia.