Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Beating of a Butterfly's Wings

Some common misunderstood facts about the Zhenyuan story:

1. It is amazing that the Chinese government allowed this story to be published. Does that not show that they want this kind of corruption revealed?
A: The Chinese government did not allow this story to be published. In mid-June the South City News was told by the government to not publish ANY articles dealing with orphanages, family planning offices, or baby-buying. After two weeks of internal discussion, the newspaper, against the prohibitions of the government, published the story anyway (their account of the decision to rebuke the government by publishing the story can be read here). There is in fact NO evidence that the government is allowing stories about orphanages to be published. In Hunan, the government stopped all reporting shortly after the story broke.

2. How is this story being treated inside China?
A: The original article has been redacted and republished broadly across China, both in print and on TV (as of this writing a Baidu search returns over 250 "hits" on the story). The focus is largely on the abuse by Family Planning officials, although some mention that the story resulted from inquiries by an American adoptive mother. Comments by Chinese residents to these articles range from anger that this story was published, making China lose face, to outrage at the government that allows these perverse policies to continue.

3. Weren't Family Planning officials just doing their jobs?
A: That is certainly how they look at it. The one-child policy is just that, a policy, a goal. There are no stated penalties given for having more than one's quota of children. Thus, Family Planning officials are free to do whatever they want to families -- a dinner at a fancy restaurant, a pig, a hefty fine, the destruction of one's home, the taking of one's child. If any good comes from this story, it will be the formalization of penalties for over-quota children.

4. Did the orphanage director know this was happening, or was he innocent in this story?
The China Daily account indicates that the orphanage "authorities forged documents stating the babies were orphans and adoption fees were split between the orphanage and officials."

5. How common are these stories?
A: In our research of different orphanages across China, we see many blogs of angry citizens like the one that wrote about Zhenyuan. They are found in every Province, in many, many orphanage cities.

UPDATE: The blame-game is starting in Guizhou. The China Daily reports that Provincial Civil Affairs official of Zhenyuan County Luo Qiong Zhen stated: "100% of the kids sent out for adoption are abandoned babies or orphans. If the kids' birth parents report that this is not true, they can complete the forms to retrieve their children."

This statement is contradicted by Tang Jian, officer in the Zhenyuan County Family Planning Control Bureau, who stated: "Were kids taken by force and sent to the orphanage to be adopted internationally? This is totally true."


One of the birth mothers (Yang Shui Ying) reported in the China Daily (that article contains additional information) recounted that as Shi Guang Ying, the Family Planning official, was leaving with her daughter, he turned to her and said, "Don't worry. When your girl is a little bit older the orphanage will send her outside China for adoption." This was meant to placate the birth mother. It didn't.

It appears that the method used by Family Planning was to target the most vulnerable in Zhenyuan -- families whose husbands were away from home working, or who had little money with which to pay the fines. Additionally, they seem to have targeted families with female children rather than male. One of the fathers, Li Ze Ji, whose child was taken by Family Planning while he was in working in Zhejiang Province, angrily responded, "If I had been home when they took my daughter away, I would have killed them!"


July 3, 2009 UPDATE: The South City News has published the story of the Chinese Government's attempted suppression of this story. On June 13, 2009 the paper was ready to run with the story and was told by the Government they were prohibited from publishing any story that deals with orphanages, family planning offices, or baby-buying. After two weeks of deliberation, they modified the story slightly and published it despite this prohibition.

July 4, 2009 UPDATE: Netwerk TV in the Netherlands last night broadcast a segment detailing China's reaction to the investigation last year of the Gaoping Family Planning confiscations. After the Dutch delegation returned from China (where they met with the CCAA) Dutch Justice Minister Levenkamp received a letter from CCAA Director Lu Ying telling them "it is best not to pursue, expand or elaborate on this issue further and to keep [this] secret for related families in order not to interrupt the bond established between the adoptive parents and the children and impose any unnecessary pressure on them." The actual letter will here available soon.

___________________________

A corruption story is building in Guizhou Province, and it started with one adoptive mother asking all the right questions.

Wendy was one of the first adoptive parents to purchase our new birth family reports. Her daughter is from the Zhenyuan SWI in Guizhou Province, a small orphanage by IA standards. Wendy ordered one of our Birth Parent Analysis for her daughter. In this report we alerted Wendy to aggressive family planning tactics being used in Zhenyuan, and pointed her to a Chinese blog that recounted the confiscations of three children found to have been internationally adopted.

Wendy contacted this blogger and began to share information with this individual. This resulted in additional interest from Chinese media, and yesterday a long and in-depth account of the Family Planning abductions was published in Guangzhou. Abbreviated versions have since been picked up by other Chinese and English outlets, including the China.Org, Shanghai Daily, and the South China Morning Post. None of these secondary articles displays the anger and resentment manifested in the original article, and I am hopeful that an English version of the original piece will be published.

The Zhenyuan orphanage has adopted a little over 40 children since 2003, almost all of them apparently brought to the orphanage through Family Planning confiscations. What is peculiar about Zhenyuan is that the orphanage made no attempt to disguise the origin of these children -- the adoption paperwork lists the finding location as the birth parent's home. Thus many of Zhenyuan's adoptive parents have been given a direct line to their child's birth family.

This story is exploding inside China, for one simple reason -- these actions are viewed as a tremendous abuse of power. Families are of course aware that they must register their children, but the law says NOTHING about the government seizing the children of those who violate Family Planning policy. To then learn that their children were "sold" (the Chinese understanding) to foreigners for adoption, and that they would never see them again, has resulted in a fire-storm of controversy.

The circumstances in Zhenyuan are hardly unique. As we analyze the finding ads from all over China we see patterns that indicate this type of practice is taking place in many, many areas. Bloggers in small towns lament the brutal actions of their Family Planning officials. They beg for someone to listen, to do something to make a change. These local citizens have largely been ignored and unseen by anyone.

Until now.

Inside China:
China-wide: http://news.sina.com.cn/s/2009-07-02/080218137623.shtml
http://www.mitbbs.cn/article_t/USANews/31230645.html
http://club.chinaren.com/0/149592969

http://bbs.asuro.cn/read-htm-tid-292443.html
Guangdong: http://gcontent.nddaily.com/d/fb/dfb84a11f431c624/Blog/c79/662656.html#comment_tabs (Original Article)

http://www.mitbbs.cn/article_t/USANews/31230645.html

http://bbs.0668.com/viewthread.php?tid=305065

Sichuan: http://press.idoican.com.cn/detail/articles/20090702141059/

Chongqing: http://www.cqautofan.com/thread-168938-1-1.html

Hong Kong: http://news.ifeng.com/society/5/200907/0701_2579_1228343_1.shtml

In English: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2009-07/03/content_8350349.htm

Outside China:
Spain: http://www.adn.es/sociedad/20090702/NWS-0114-Denuncian-extranjeros-adopcion-familias-darlas.html

England: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8130900.stm
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/5732679/Chinese-babies-sold-for-adoption-to-US-and-Europe-report-claims.html

United States: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124656106407087613.html

Netherlands: http://www.nrcnext.nl/blog/2009/07/03/2200-voor-een-chinese-wees-die-nog-ouders-heeft/
http://www.netwerk.tv/uitzending/2009-07-03/weer-adoptieschandaal-china
http://www.telegraaf.nl/binnenland/4314006/_%20_Gedwongen_%20adoptie_naar_%20Nederland_%20_.html?p=%2036,2
http://www.trouw.nl/nieuws/nederland/article2805888.ece/_Illegale_Chinese_adoptiekinderen_in_Nederland_.html#mailfriend
http://www.trouw.nl/nieuws/nederland/article2806655.ece/De_meeste_adoptiekinderen__zijn__vondeling___maar_niet_allemaal_.html#mailfriend
http://www.ad.nl/buitenland/3341970/Adoptievereniging_trekt_kinderhandel_na.html

36 comments:

Karen said...

Brian, how do we translate the Chinese pages to read them? Thanks! Karen

Research-China.Org said...

Excellent question. Aside from having a Chinese speaker in your house, you can try Google-Translate (http://www.google.com/language_tools?hl=en). The translation is just a "gist", but you can get an idea.

Brian

Lesley G said...

Here is the BBC take on the story.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8130900.stm

malinda said...

Brian,

How do you date your blog posts? When I checked your blog at 1 am THURSDAY, this post was not there! I had just caught a report about the scandal and checked you first, and didn't find any info. Yet your post is dated WEDNESDAY!

Research-China.Org said...

Blogger dates them when you start composing, not when you post. That is the reason for the dating issue. Once you start composing, there is no way to update. I'll make sure I compose and post quickly next time!! :-)

Brian

kantmakm said...

Do you believe that the fact that this was allegedly done in a very poor minority region bears any significance to the actions? i.e. do you think that FP officials are more likely to have confiscated miao, dong, tujian children rather than han chinese? And if this is so, is it a racially- or economically-based bias?

Research-China.Org said...

I think it is economically based. I think that the government (and many urban people who run the orphanages) feel that the rural families are ignorant, superstitious and a burden to society. Thus, these programs target the poor -- baby buying, confiscations, etc. It is viewed as a win-win-win: The kids are better off, China is better off, and adoptive families are able to get children.

Brian

isepa said...

What are your thoughts/knowledge of this happening in other Provinces??

Research-China.Org said...

One sees this patterns everywhere -- it is not unique to Guizhou. For example, in Huazhou (Guangdong) is a town where over 30 kids were "found" between January and November 2004. Before January 2004 only one other child had been found in this town, and none were found after November 2004. In May 2005 the town's Family Planning officials were awarded an accommodation for their work in this town the previous year. Thus it is clear that over 30 children were adopted internationally as a result of a Family Planning campaign. These kinds of things are seen everywhere.

Brian

Anonymous said...

So were the finding ads forged for these confiscated babies - am I to assume because I have an ad my baby was not forced from her parents????

Anonymous said...

This is just sickening. I hope the outrage in China leads to reform.

Research-China.Org said...

The focus of the story is on children whose finding ads and adoption paperwork clearly gave the finding location as the birth family's home. This was a gross oversight on the part of the orphanage, since one can only imagine an adoptive family showing up at the finding location (the birth family's home) with their daughter in tow.

Generally, the orphanages are more oblique than that, giving the finding location as the orphanage gate, Civil Affairs Bureau, or Family Planning office.

Brian

Marianne pour "les cousines de Xuwen" said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marianne pour "les cousines de Xuwen" said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Research-China.Org said...

I think as it relates to Family Planning, the children remain in the same areas (incentive programs are another story).

And finding ads mean nothing. They are legal notices, not intended to locate birth families.

Brian

osolomama said...

Brian, any chance anyone can provide a translation of

http://gcontent.nddaily.com/d/fb/dfb84a11f431c624/Blog/c79/662656.html#comment_tabs

(labeled original article)

for us? I hit the Google translation button and it is driving me nuts that I can't figure out exactly what is going on because I just got the the part where someone was surrounded by a bunch of men who took her child and I really want to read this article in English.

Many thanks -

Research-China.Org said...

I am working on a translation, but am hopeful someone will beat me to it!

Brian

Kay Bratt said...

While I do not welcome the fear and ripples of consequences this story will bring to adoptive parents, I have to honestly declare that it is about time that this travesty [that many of us suspected was happening] be investigated and brought to the attention of the world. Can you imagine how it feels to have your child snatched from your life and finally realize that you will never see them again? It just makes me sick to know what many of the Chinese parents are feeling-- not that I CAN know but I can only imagine-- not only that, but I am so angry when I think of many of the children who suffered at the hands of the SWI workers-- when they could be in their own family home if it wasn't for the misguided policies and corrupt officials who think they rule the world. As for the adoptive parents, who in my opinion are innocent in this game of life, it is unfair that now many must reflect and question the validity of their child's adoption process--and for some will have to live with doubt and perhaps fear that they might lose their child. Two sets of parents-- one child and mountains of hurt. I really hope this isn't just swept under the radar again. It is time for China to come clean.

Anonymous said...

Brian,

Kay Bratt just suggested that "now many must reflect and question the validity of their child's adoption process--and for some will have to live with doubt and perhaps fear that they might lose their child." Do you see it this way? I hate to think that any parent or child suffered as a result of the corruption of the Family Planning officials, as is now coming to light, but I trust they have. However I can't imagine our children’s security will further be jeopardized trying to right wrongs done with more suffering for these/our children and further embarrassments for China.
Cat

Research-China.Org said...

I don't think there is any danger that an adoption can be disrupted -- to do so would have catastrophic consequences for the China program. The Chinese government will never allow that to happen.

But there is great danger that our children will one day go searching and find their birth families, only to discover the true story behind their adoption. They might very well then ask us if we knew of these things. That is why I feel telling the truth and not discounting these stories is so important.

Brian

Anonymous said...

Thank you Brian, Ms. Bratt statement sent a chill down my spine. I agree about being honest and gathering as many answers now for our children's future questions. Our girls are only 3 and 5 and they already have a pretty good understanding of the situation in China. We try to give them as much information as they can understand being careful to neither romanticize or vilify China and its culture.
Cat

Anonymous said...

I received a blog post in my feed from nine hours ago, why has that one disappeared?

Research-China.Org said...

Yes, I did post a blog article for a few minutes (I am amazed at how quickly Google catches that stuff), but it is not yet ready for publication. Sorry for the confusion, but it will come out in a few weeks.

Brian

Anonymous said...

You used the picture off my daughter and you know this is not one off the girls they are looking for. I never gave Wendy permission to send this picture to you. She promissed me she could contact the fostermom and the picture was send to her for this reason only!
You will here from me.
China Daily removed the picture because the know by now the truth!!!

Research-China.Org said...

It is very unfortunate that your picture was sent to the Chinese journalist, but I am confused as to why you are saying I had anything to do with it. I have not EVER seen the picture. I have not used it in any way.

Brian

Anonymous said...

Thank you again Brian for reporting to us. I have a Guiyang, Guizhou daughter adopted in 2004. I read all of your blog postings and always find them insightful. My daughters will hear the hard truth of these stories as they grow up. Thanks again.
LLS

Kay Bratt said...

Brian,

With your extensive experience with China and this subject, I am relieved to hear your opinion that these discoveries will not cause any adoption disruptions. I should have asked you that earlier myself, to save a lot of worry.

Kay

Research-China.Org said...

The CCAA clearly stated tot eh Dutch in a letter dated February 20, 2008:

"The adoptions are protected by law and will not cause any problems for the adoptive families." Thus, even in cases where gross violations occurred, the CCAA and the Chinese Government are committed to preventing anyone from disrupting an already completed adoption.

Brian

Anonymous said...

But what about the United States government? Could they decide, post-facto, that an adopted child does not meet their definition of orphan, and thus, the child should never have entered the U.S.? I doubt this is likely, since the U.S government is terrified of offending China, but what if circumstances changed? What if the parents who want their children back do not give up, and manage to get worldwide publicity? Is there some point at which the U.S. might decide it has to give back the children?

Research-China.Org said...

The U.S. has shown an unwillingness to push this issue -- while the Dutch and other European countries (and Australia & Canada to much lessor degrees) at least go through the motions of investigating (with predictable results). Unless China's government made an issue of this (which will never happen), these problems will not be addressed by other nations.

Brian

kantmakm said...

"What if the parents who want their children back do not give up, and manage to get worldwide publicity? Is there some point at which the U.S. might decide it has to give back the children?"
--Anonymous

If you are interested and concerned about this issue you might want to follow the Guatemala cases referenced in this news piece:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk59dfvXJQ8

isepa said...

Why do you think the US is not investigating this like issues in Vietnam or Guatamala?

Research-China.Org said...

Like the Dutch Government, which does repeated "investigations" (really just show pieces to placate their residents) the U.S. government will do nothing on adoption with China. It is a lose-lose proposition. The Chinese will be angry, and the families waiting in line will be angry (since any investigation would probably result in closures).

Brian

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brian for your honest posts. I wish the China adoption community as a whole would take their heads out of the sand. It's become obvious to me, an adoptive parent, that there are abuses in the system in China that go beyond just 2 or 3 cases. It is sobering and I know my daughter will have a lot of questions someday.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian -

I'm confused about your Huazhou comment. My daughter was found at Huazhou in November 2002. Our travel group (August 2003) was 10-12 other girls. If these girls weren't "found" what was their status?

Please help me to understand better. Thanks,
Miri

Research-China.Org said...

Miri:

I am not able to respond about specific orphanages publicly, but you are welcome to write me privately.

Brian