Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Look at the Provinces V: Guangdong

Just up on our subscription blog is an analysis of the Guangdong orphanages.  We know from early reports about the Hunan scandal that Guangdong orphanages were involved, but which ones?  With recent Family Planning confiscation stories coming out of Hunan and Guizhou Provinces, can one find similar activities in Guangdong Province?  And how about all the older healthy children being referred?  Where are they coming from?  These and other questions are answered in this week's analysis.

Readers will find it all very interesting!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dr. Changfu Chang and the Issue of Trafficking


A monk asks a villager: "How is it that Hua Cheng Jian, the Buddha master, is able to tap everyone?"  The villager was silent.  Again, the monk asked, "How is it that Hua Cheng Jian, the Buddha master, is able to have everyone follow him?"  Finally, the villager replies:  "One doesn't wash their dirty laundry in public."

A recent article on Malinda's "ChinaAdoption" blog presents her account of a recent conversation with Dr. Changfu Chang, an ex-journalist from China who is now making his mark by producing and distributing adoption-themed DVDs to adoptive families.  It seems that Dr. Chang is touring various FCC gatherings discussing his films, and discussing "life in China" with understandably curious families.

At the end of each session, Dr. Chang opens up the discussion for questioning.  With the recent news from Hunan, invariably an audience member will ask him how concerned adoptive families should about corruption in China's adoption program.  It seems that his answer is fairly formulaic in each event -- families should not worry about these matters at all; that it was, according to Malinda's account, "extremely rare."

Malinda continues:  "He said that some (unidentified) people were claiming that as many as 30% of the children in international adoption were trafficked.  However, he could assure us that that was not true and that we simply should "stop worrying about it."  Only a miniscule number have been trafficked, he claimed."

Full disclosure -- I have never met Dr. Chang, and have seen none of his videos.  But I do know something about his subject in these quotes.  As I see it, there are three options -- Dr. Chang is very ignorant of China's international adoption program, he is intentionally lying to adoptive families, or he is not understanding what is being asked.

I will start with the third possibility first.  Careful readers of the statements made by various participants in the China scandals, from Hunan to Zhenyuan to Gaoping and the others --  will note that in nearly every case the participants did not feel that they were doing anything wrong.  The directors of the Hunan orphanages made their defense that buying babies was not illegal (although selling babies is), and that even if it was illegal, it benefited the children so there was no harm.  The same idea is seen in the Zhenyuan case where the Civil Affairs flatly stated :"They're better off with their adoptive parents than their birth parents."

So, for a member of China's upper-class as Dr. Chang is, one must start by asking him the correct question.  It is entirely possible that Dr. Chang sees corruption only in terms of children being taken unwillingly from birth families.  This would fit comfortably into the mind-set seen in nearly every orphanage area in China -- the orphanages pay money to get babies away from the poor uneducated and ignorant peasants, to be adopted by well-to-do Americans and given a good life.  Possibly, Dr. Chang does not see this as corruption.  Certainly most orphanage directors don't.

So, adoptive families must be more exact with their questions, since many of them probably would argue that baby-buying is corruption.   Instead of asking, "Do you feel there is wide-spread corruption in China's program?" a better question might be "Do you feel that paying substantial amounts of money for children is adoption corruption?  And how wide-spread do you feel this baby-buying is?"  It may be that he hedges, like the villager in the opening story, out of a reluctance to air China's dirty laundry, for there is one characteristic of the Chinese that I understand very well, having lived with one for seven years:  The Chinese do not like to reveal the dirty secrets of their country, even to friends.  It is a tradition and understanding that goes back hundreds of years.  We might view it as lying, but the Chinese consider it "saving face."

It is of course entirely possible that the third option is not the explanation for Dr. Chang's statements.  It might be that he is fully aware of what is being asked of him, and refuses to answer honestly out of fear that he will offend adoptive families, who he feels are good and benevolent people (who also happen to support his projects by buying his DVDs).  Or it is possible that the first option is correct -- that he really is ignorant of the true state of affairs in a majority of China's orphanages.  Maybe he has never even thought to ask an area foster family or other orphanage employee if they pay "Lucky Money" to people who turn in kids.  I am sure if he had visited Shaoyang in 2005 no one would have volunteered where many of that orphanage's kids came from.  There are no signs above the orphanages stating "We buy babies for cash."  One must look for it.  One must ask people questions.  It is possible that Dr. Chang has never asked those questions, and thus he would not have been made aware of these programs.

One possibility is not probable -- that the reason he is not aware is because such programs don't exist.  As readers of our public and private blog realize, such programs are used by an overwhelming number of orphanages.  If you define "corruption" in terms of international law, Dr. Chang's statement that "some (unidentified) people were claiming that as many as 30% of the children in international adoption were trafficked", and that it "was not true and that we simply should 'stop worrying about it'" is either gross ignorance, a misunderstanding of the term, or a lie to save face.  There is no other option.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Sale of a Child in Shaoyang

Caixin Magazine has published a second article (more will be forthcoming) detailing the efforts used by the Gaoping Family Planning to hide the origin of Yang Li Bing's daughter, including fabricating police reports, witness testimony, and other documents. Readers of our subscription blog will recognize such patterns, as we last week published an interview with an orphanage director who explained that nearly all "finder testimony" is fabricated by the orphanages. Additionally, as another interview with a "finder" on our subscription blog shows, finders are often coached by the orphanage in how to answer questions from adoptive families, using a "finding template" to answer questions about the finding.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Old News? Not to the People in China

The news this week that Chinese Family Planning officials had raided a small farming community in rural Hunan Province and confiscated nearly twenty young children has citizens in China understandably outraged (a Baidu search this morning shows over 600 independent postings in various newspapers, websites, and other media). While this news is familiar to attentive people in the West (we publicized it in October 2006, and it was later investigated by Dutch Television and the L.A. Times), aside from a small legal notice published in China, the case was unknown.

Family Planning officials are already despised by most Chinese, due to their ability to blatantly and capriciously impose their will on local families. As the New York Times described it, villages and towns are often "private fiefdoms run by local party officials." This story, in which Family Planning officials confiscated children to "sell" to overseas foreign families through the area orphanage, has ignited a firestorm of outrage in China, most of it directed at the Family Planning establishment.

This anger is largely misdirected. Although the Family Planning officials are certainly guilty of a myriad of sins, the majority of the guilt for these events should be directed at the orphanages themselves.

Most would assume that orphanages in China are set up to care for abandoned children found scattered around the countryside. What is usually overlooked is that with the introduction of international adoption in 1992, fees paid by foreign families has become a substantial source of revenue for China's social welfare program, revenue that is used to build lavish and impressive orphanages and Old Folk's Homes, used to "benefit" local and Provincial authorities, and used to pay the salaries of an entire bureaucratic structure dedicated to international adoptions. Everyone involved in China's international adoption program has an incentive to keep the program going. The payoff is obvious -- for every child adopted by a foreign family, the orphanage receives $5,000 (35,000 yuan) in "donations".

The Gaoping Family Planning confiscations have their roots not in the Family Planning restrictions, but in the Shaoyang orphanage. Area residents reveal that before 2000, Family Planning officials would punish a family for having an overquota child by smashing their furniture or destroying their homes. "Since 2000 they haven't smashed homes. They abduct children," one local resident stated. The change occurred when the orphanage began to reward the Family Planning official who confiscated a child with 1,000 yuan cash. Now, instead of having to expend energy smashing a couch or end table, the officials could simply take the child and be paid nearly a month's salary as a reward.

In 2005, six orphanages in Hunan Province were caught buying babies from area traffickers. Although those six orphanages largely ceased participating in the international adoption program after the exposure, many other orphanages inside China have continued to buy babies from traffickers unimpeded. Press stories by ABC News, the L.A. Times, and others show that buying babies is still prevalent, and statistical analysis reveals that a majority of children adopted from China entered the orphanage through Family Planning confiscations, outright purchase, or through other "incentive" programs. Rather than being safe-havens for unwanted and abandoned children, China's orphanages are more accurately described as businesses, seeking to maximize its benefit like any other profit-seeking enterprise.

China's problems are by no means unique, as similar scandals have been seen in Ethiopia, Guatamala, Vietnam, Romania, and nearly every other sending country on earth. These problems will persist until the "profit-making" structure of international adoption is changed. Until an orphanage can no longer receive substantial cash donations from foreign families for a child that they can obtain for relatively little outlay, enterprising orphanage directors will continue to make "deals with the devil", whether those devils be area baby traffickers or the local Family Planning officials.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Shaoyang, Hunan Birth Parents Seek Contact with Adoptive Families

This article has been updated to clarify the information found in my orphanage list below. The list provided by the Shaoyang orphanage provided the finding date and number of children confiscated on that date by the Gaoping Family Planning. A search of the Shaoyang finding ads allowed us to then locate the Chinese names and assigned finding locations for each of those girls. In all but one case, there is only one child that matches the finding date, and in each case the assigned age in the finding ad matches closely the age when each of the children was confiscated. In one instance, two children appear in the finding ads, but both of these children display characteristics of Family Planning. The second child may have come from another village, or was not one of the twelve children detailed in the story.

One child that appears on the list had no finding ad published. This child (#12), a boy, was returned to his family after they appealed to a "powerful" friend in the government.

In March 2008, Netwerk TV in the Netherlands broadcast a documentary concerning the confiscation of children from Gaoping, Hunan by Family Planning. These children were sent to the Shaoyang orphanage and internationally adopted. The documentary focused on the daughter of Yang Li Bing, who was taken at nine months old and later adopted by an American couple. Yang Li Bing's wife eventually left him, believing he had not worked hard enough to get their daughter back.

While initial press coverage of this incident provided only enough information to identify one of the children with any certainty, a press article published today (English translation here, with a sample of Chinese coverage here, and other reports here and here) by the Hong Kong newspaper "Caixin" provides details on another twelve children (an English video report by Aljazeera can be viewed here). Based on a listing provided by the Shaoyang orphanage (see above), the names and finding dates of these children is now known. The birth families of these thirteen children have a strong desire to know the current status of these children, so if you adopted one of these children, or know who may have adopted them, please contact us.

1) Date: 6/4/02 -- one child (girl)
Shao Fu Long, four months old at finding, Tabei Road #1
Shao Fu Quan, two years old, Qiaotou Bamboo Art Factory
2) Date: 7/30/02 -- one child (girl)
Shao Fu Mei, two months old at finding, Second People's Hospital
3) Date: 10/10/02 -- one child (girl)
Shao Fu Cong, one year old at finding, Changxing Street #16
4) Date: 4/17/03 -- one child (girl)
Shao Yang Ling, one year old at finding, Wuyi Road #79
5) Date: 7/2/03 -- one child (girl)
Shao Yang Chu, ten months old at finding, First People's Hospital Clinic
6) Date: 7/4/03 -- one child (girl)
Shao Yang Kang, five months old at finding, Second People's Hospital
7) Date: 7/8/03 -- one child (girl)
Shao Yang Ying, five months old at finding, Chinese Traditional Medicine Hospital
8) Date: 4/3/04 -- one child (girl)
Shao Yang Shun, three months old at finding, Shiyan Clothing Store
9) Date: 9/24/04 -- one child (girl)
Shao Yang Fu, five months old at finding, Paper Factory
10) Date: 5/1/05 -- one child (girl)
Shao Ming Gao, nine months old at finding, Orphanage
11) Date: 8/2/05 -- one child (girl)
Shao Ming Rong, one year old at finding, Orphanage
12) Date: 10/29/05 -- one child (boy) -- Returned to family
13) Date: 12/26/05 -- one child (girl)
Shao Ming Qian, thirty-eight days old at finding, Gaoping Town Government