Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Saga of Ding Shuang Yuan

The vast majority of adoptions in China, both domestic and international, are of children whose birth parents have willingly abandoned their child into the hands of the State. China's laws are clear as to the procedure in processing these foundlings: A "finding ad" is placed proclaiming the pending transfer of legal custody of the child to the State, and if no birth parents come forward to claim the child, after 60 days the child is processed for adoption.

But what happens if the child is kidnapped and moved to another Province? What is the legal response when the birth family finally locates the missing child, only to find that child has been legally adopted to another family?

The following story details the experience of Ding Junchao and his wife Yang Zhaofuang, a couple whose oldest son was kidnapped and trafficked to another Province. When the kidnapper was arrested, the child was brought to the area orphanage and adopted. Years later, Ding Junchao located his lost son. What followed is a heartrending story.


There is a couple -- Ding Junchao and his wife Yang Zhaofuang -- from Anhui Province. They had a little boy named Ding Xiaowei, and also an older son called Ding Shuangyuan. However, since he was born, Ding Xiaowei didn’t have a chance to see his older brother.

Reporter: Tell me who is your brother?

Ding Xiaowei: Ding Shuangyuan

Reporter: How did you know about your brother Ding Shuangyuan?

Ding Xiaowei: My mom told me.

Reporter: But you never saw him, right?

Ding Xiaowei: No.

Where had Xiaowei’s brother gone? In fact, on April 12th, 2000, Xiaowei’s brother Shuangyuan suddenly disappeared.

Yang Zhaofuang: My husband was working on the mountain in the morning. When he came back at meal time, he asked me where the kid [Ding Shuangyuan] was. I told him that he was right outside playing in front of the door with He Jiangjun.

He Jianjun was their neighbor who worked in the quarry factory at that time.

Yang Zhaofuang: At first, he was playing with He Jiangjun in front of the door. Later, we discovered that He Jiangjun was gone and so was our son.

What happened next gave the couple a sense of foreboding.

Yang Zhaofuang: Riding on the motorcycle, together with the boss of the factory, we went searching the kids around the whole Luquan city. Later we couldn’t find them and decided to report the case to the police station in Shijing.

The person in Shijing police station: He Jianjun and Ding Junchao who had reported the case were neighbors working in the same factory. He Jianjun always played with the kids and what’s more, someone saw him at the scene leaving with the kid. According to what we knew, He Jianjun was the suspect.

After further investigation, the police found that He Jianjun had another friend named Gong Shidong, also a local. Gong carried goods with a tri-motorcycle in the neighborhood, and disappeared after the event. Given the situation, the police staked out Gong Shidong’s house.

The person in Shijing police station: As soon as Gong Shidong came back to Luquan the next day, he was arrested.

Yang Zhaofuang: We were so excited to catch Gong Shidong, as we desperately wanted to know where our kid was.

The couple felt a big relief when Gong Shidong was caught. They couldn’t wait to hear from their son, so they came to the office of the police station early the next morning.

Yang Zhaofang: My husband gave Gong Shidong a cigarette as he wanted and asked him where He Jiangjun was. Gong Shidong said that He Jiangjun had gone. When pressed further, he said nothing but that He Jiangjun had taken away the kid.

The person working in Shijing police station: He Jiangjun took the kid and parted ways with Gong Shidong in Jiangxian, who later went back to Luquan and didn’t know where either the kid or He Jiangjun had gone to.

What Gong Shidong said deeply disappointed the couple. The only clue was lost since no one knew where He Jianjun had taken the kid. Not knowing the whereabouts of their little son who was only three years old, the couple again went home anxious and kept waiting for some news to come up.

Ding Junchao: We were so worried thinking of our lost baby and didn't sleep well during that time.

Yang Zhaofuang: We went back and forth between the police station and the Public Security Bureau.

Ding Junchao: We went to every place where we thought we might get information and never did we give up.

Time passed fast, but the pain of losing their son did not ease. The couple never stopped their efforts to look for their son. They went to the police station frequently asking for any new information about their son. However, every time they only grew more disappointed. More than two years elapsed in a flash. One day in December, 2002, came the news from the police station saying that the suspect He Jianjuan had been caught in Hubei province. After almost three years, the trader in children had finally been captured. Whether they can have their son back this time? The couple had hope again.

Yang Zhaofuang: We were so happy thinking that we had He Jianjun, and that we would finally know where our kid was.

However, everyone’s heart would be suspended again.

Yang Zhaofuang: The man in the police station asked He Jianjun and he confessed that he abandoned our son in the north railway station in Shijianzhuang.

As what He Jianjun said, he parted from his friend Gong Shidong the day after he had spirited away the child with whom he then took the train to Shijiazhuang.

The person working in Shijing police station: He Jianjun confessed that when he got off the train in Shijiazhuang, he couldn’t sell the child for he kept crying. He didn’t know how to deal with him. Being afraid that the people around would discover what was happening, He Jianjun left the child in the north railway station in Shijiazhuang and went away by himself.

After hearing all of these, the couple felt cold deep in their hearts. The couple went to the north station in Shijiazhuang with their last hopes. The work staff there provided them an important clue.

The work staff in the north station in Shijiazhuang: I was on duty on April 13th, 2000. After I checked the tickets for the train coming from Tianjin to Xi’an which was No. 2561, I found there was a boy in front of the checking counter who was about three or four years old. No one came to take that boy even after the train had left. When there a few people left in the waiting room, we made an announcement, but with no results. The next morning, the boy was taken to the police station.

The news once again brought hope to the couple. According to the time, that child who was sent to the police station probably was little Shuangyuan. After checking the records in the police station, they found out where the child had gone.

The police in the police station: We sent our fellows to investigate immediately after we received the report and found the child who was abandoned by someone else. On the morning of the 14th, the police and some employees working for passenger transport in the north railway station took the child to the social welfare institute in Shijiazhuang.

Upon learning this, the couple, together with the police, hurried to the SWI in Shijiazhuang immediately, only to find out that the child sent there three years before had been adopted by a couple in Shijiazhuang. The police confirmed that the adopted child indeed was Ding Shuangyuan. Shuangyuan’s parents asked the welfare institute to return their child, but were rejected in their request.

Yang Zhaofuang: The person in the institute said that he had to keep the identity of the adopting family secret.

The Ding couple kept asking for their child, but the welfare institute told them nothing. Was there any particular reason?

The president in the Shijiazhuang welfare institute: We felt sorry for the Ding couple, and wanted to help them find the child. However, we should respect the adopter. They have been raising the child with their intense care and we should respect that. They love the child and give him happiness. We don’t want to destroy that.

The welfare institute was in a quandary about this. There was nothing wrong with the natural parents’ request, but the institute had signed a contract promising to keep the adoption a secret. So they were not supposed to tell anybody anything about the adoptive parents. But the Dings wanted to know who on earth was keeping little Shuangyuan? How was he?

We finally managed to meet the adoptive mother of little Shuangyuan, Ms. Jiang. She told the reporter that the natural parents had brought her family a big disaster. She and her husband were desperate when the received the news from the welfare institute.

The adoptive mother: The welfare institute told us that our child came from the north station, and had been kidnapped. The police in Luquan had solved the case and his natural parents had come to look for him at the beginning of the New Year. The institute said that they had come by three times. I was so afraid to tell my mom. I couldn’t believe what’s happening.

The outspoken husband rarely said a word that day.

The adoptive mother: I remembered he’s been sitting there all night long. Even the child sensed the odd atmosphere at home. The child wrote in his diary that, “mother cried today. I must be obedient and responsible from now on and never make mother cry."

The child wanted to behave well and cheer up his parents, but he didn’t know the sorrow of his parents was about him. They knew they hadn't given birth to little Shuangyuan, but still it’s so hard for them to be parted after three years of living together. Ms. Jiang still remembered the first time she met little Shuangyuan.

Ms. Jiang and her husband hadn’t had a biological baby since they gotten married. Then in 1998, they went to Shijiazhuang’s welfare institute and registered to adopt a child. After two years’ waiting, word finally came in the summer in 2000.

The adoptive mother: It had been a long time since we contacted the institute. When we had almost given up, I received a phone call one day unexpectedly. It was from the welfare institute and they said that I may go to adopt a child. I was so thrilled that I talked to my husband immediately.

That afternoon, Ms. Jiang and her husband hurried to the Shijiazhuang welfare institute.

The adoptive mother: Seeing the boy was dark and dirty, I hesitated. Later the people in the institute told him to call me mom and he did. Being a woman in her thirties and with no child, I was deeply touched by the call. Without a second thought, I went over and took him home.

This boy was the little Shuangyuan that had been sent by the police station in north railway station in Shijiazhuang. The first time they met the boy, the couple fell in love with him. They held him walking around the institute and then bought him some snacks.

The lady in Shijiazhuang’s welfare institute: They became close the moment they saw each other. It seemed they were meant to be together. I could tell the couple loved the child very much.

Ms. Jiang and her husband decided to adopt the child. A week later, they had all the procedures done and took the child home. The trial adoptive period began.

The adoptive mother: These are the new pillows and new tick for the child. He is asleep right there. My brothers and sisters-in-law came to see him, as did the grand-parents.

Later, when registering for the formal adoption, the couple picked June 1st as the child’s birthday. A happy family of three people was formed. Since the first day the child entered the family, there was love and caring from the parents everywhere. At the same time, the child also brought tremendous fun to the family.

The adoptive mother: He was so glad that I called him "little puppy", and acted like a real one towards me which made me feel so happy. It’s not that we gave him a family; the truth is he gave us the family.

The family planned that they would go to Beijing for the Olympic games in 2008.

After long, deep thinking, they decided to keep the child and never give him up. Moreover, they refused to see the child’s natural parents, who still didn’t know where their child was no matter how hard they tried. The road of looking for their child suddenly was blocked. Another year had almost passed. The parents really couldn’t stand it any longer.

Yang Zhaofuang: We couldn’t figure why the welfare institute refused our request over and over again. We didn’t know the adoptive parents, so we could only think of suing the institute.

In May 2004, the natural parents took the Shijiazhuang’s welfare institute to court. They asked the welfare institute to return their child and pay them about 30 thousand yuan in economic compensation. The People's Court in Qianxi district in Shijiazhuang took the case and found the adoptive parents were the defendants first according to the procedures. Facing such a special case, Hao Zengliang, the chief judge, found it tricky to deal with.

Hao Zengliang, the chief judge: Neither party had done anything wrong. The natural parents didn’t lose their child on purpose. It’s the criminal’s fault who took the child away. However, we checked the adoptive registration and other materials, and the adoptive behavior was in accordance with the rules and regulations in the “Adoption Law”.

When little Shuangyuan was sent to the welfare institute by the police in Shijiazhuang’s north railway station, there was no clue about his identity which meant that he could be adopted according to the country’s adoption regulation as follows:
The forth provision in the country’s adoption law
The following people who are under 14 can be adopted:
   1. Orphans who lost their parents
   2. Abandoned babies and children whose parents cannot be found
   3. The natural parents are not capable of raising their children

Little Shuangyuan belongs to those whose parents couldn’t be found. That’s why the welfare institute wanted a family that was capable of raising Shuangyuan to adopt him. So finally they chose Ms. Jiang based on the requirements for the adopter in the “Adoption Law”.

To make sure that little Shuangyuan could be adopted, the welfare institute published the claim ad in the local newspaper—“Hebei Economy daily” and “Hebei Labor” which was a must in accordance with the “Adoption Registration Procedures in the People’s Republic of China” enacted in 1999 by the Civil Administration Department.

The seventh provision in the “Adoption Registration Procedures in the People’s Republic of China”: "A claim ad shall be published by the related registration department before the adoption of abandoned babies and children whose parents cannot be found. If no natural parents or other guardians claim the abandoned babies and children after 60 days, it’s officially regarded that the abandoned babies and children’s natural parents cannot be found."

60 days later, no one had come to claim little Shuangyuan, and the welfare institute had the registration procedures done for the adoptive parents. The whole adoptive issue was undergone in a legal way.

Both couples love the child and had done nothing wrong. The chief judge found it so difficult to make the decision for one family, since inevitably someone would be hurt no matter what the result is. It’s reasonable that little Shuangyuan should be back with his natural parents legally; however, if so, little Shuangyuan may not accept it. How can he manage this huge sudden change? Was there any better idea? The judge hoped the two families could reconcile.

Judge Hao made efforts and finally enabled the two parents to meet first.

Yang Zhaofuang: We were wondering how old the adoptive parents would be and how their family is. We soon learned that they were rather nice.

The fine quality of the adoptive family and their love for the child set the natural parents’ heart at rest and closed their relationship as well. The adoptive parents were persuaded to let the child meet his natural parents on the basis that before all was solved, the child should not be told anything about his natural parents. The place where they chose to meet was the Square before the Yuyuan Hotel.

Ding Junchao: Our child was right in front of us singing us a song and reciting a poem. He called me "Uncle" and my wife "Aunt". We wanted to give him a hug but the adoptive parents were reluctant to allow us. You can imagine how we felt.

As they got to know each other, the natural parents came to have a good impression towards the adoptive parents, being satisfied and thankful to them for bringing up the child with love and care. Things were developing in a positive way. It seemed highly possible that the two families would reconcile successfully in the end.

Ding Junchao: If the child were to be with us, we cannot give him the good living quality of living as that.

Yang Zhaofuang: The court talked to us several times trying to persuade us to give up our child for his own good. We thought it over and were persuaded.

December 17th, 2004, on the advice of the judge, the two parents took the child and had dinner in a hotel. After that, Judge Hao took out a written agreement hoping that both parties could officially reconcile.

The agreement stated that:
  Little Shuangyuan will live with the adoptive parents until 14 years old when he can decide who to live with.
  The natural parents can visit little Shuangyuan on the May and October vacations as well as the summer vacation and winter vacation.
The natural parents give up the request of compensation from Shijiazhuang’s welfare institution.

The adoptive father of the child signed the agreement, but his wife didn’t want to at the last minute.

Yang Zhaofuang: At least, let our child know who we are, but they [the adoptive family] just didn’t want to.

The adoptive mother: The natural parents couldn’t understand us. The child is little and he didn’t know what was happening, let alone how to deal with it. Otherwise I wouldn’t be insisting on that. They asked why and I think it’s easy to understand. If I told the child everything, he would definitely cry hard which I don’t want to see. I don’t want him to be hurt again.

The natural parents asked for the revealing of their identity, but the adoptive parents insisted that it should not be told until the child was grown up. Moreover, the natural parents asked for the compensation from the welfare institute. Inevitably, they didn’t sign on the agreement on the last day. Therefore, Judge Hao had to hold court the next day.

Things had come to a deadlock again. What can be the right solution? We consulted some experts and they thought that the right for the natural parents should be considered first, but the fact is to let the child choose by himself is best; however, being just 8 years, little Shuangyaun is not mature enough to make the decision, and he has adjusted to the life in the adoptive family, so it would be hard for him to deal with the complicated situation. Then, what verdict will the court make?

August 18th, 2004, the court in the west district in Shijiazhuang had its verdict for the case.

Hao Zengliang, the chief judge: We care much more about the child and the living conditions he will face in the future.

The verdict from the court: The Ding couple’s request of 30 thousand yuan in compensation from the welfare institute in Shijiazhuang is turned down. The child is under the custody of the adoptive parents for the time being.

Hao Zengliang, the chief umpire judge: After what we’ve done, we think this verdict is the best.

After the judgment of the first trial, the Ding couple appealled to the intermediate court in Shijiazhuang. On July 15th, 2005, the intermediate court dismissed the appeal and confirmed the original verdict.

Maybe the verdict is not the best, but now it’s the best for little Shuangyuan, bringing the least negative impact on his life. Little Shuangyuan is unlucky for going through all this, but at the same time, he is lucky that he has two pairs of parents who love him very much and are willing to give him a steady and happy family. There are still things to deal with when little Shuangyuan grows up.