IMAGES: Reuters. TOP - "Abandoned children at an orphanage in Shanghai"
It is now illegal for Chinese citizens to keep abandoned children they find, says a law released on Tuesday by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs. That’s big news for the 200,000 children abandoned each year in China (according to the Associated Press report). But it is not clear what this new policy’s outcome will be. Will it protect or endanger China’s most vulnerable citizens?
The new policy adds to existing laws about treatment of orphans. Previous laws prohibited trafficking children and establishing orphanages without state approval, but did not mention whether finders of abandoned children could keep them. Now, a specific procedure for handling abandoned children is outlined.
An abandoned child must be promptly reported to local law enforcement, who must search for the child’s parents. If authorities cannot find the child’s parents, he or she must be placed in a state-owned care facility. People who find abandoned children are specifically prohibited from keeping them. Chinese couples hoping to adopt must be healthy, childless, over age 30 and able to afford a sizeable adoption fee.
Interpreting this law’s purpose and predicting its results is difficult. On one hand, detailed government records could be a saving grace for China’s massive orphan population. Given the staggering rates of abandonment, China desperately needs a policy designed for dealing with abandoned children. The Chinese government could be providing long-overdue protection and care to these orphans.
Abandoned children need government protection because an estimated 70,000 children are trafficked annually in China. Keeping records of abandoned children and confronting the adults who claim them could significantly decrease the number of children who “disappear” into the vast trafficking market. A trafficked child who leaves no records behind has very little hope of rescue, making him or her a prime target for traffickers. In that sense, this new law could be an important step in the right direction.
But banning citizens from claiming orphans could also exacerbate China’s orphan problem. Once abandoned, a Chinese child has few options. If not claimed by a compassionate stranger, he or she often joins an overcrowded, underfunded orphanage and becomes one of the majority of Chinese orphans who receive no government subsidies. Private intervention provides a welcome alternative to a life languishing in a public institution.
Removing the organic safety net for orphans could have devastating results. In rural areas in China, 95% of abandoned children live outside state-controlled orphanages. All over China, compassionate citizens take in unwanted children and either raise them as their own or become unofficial orphanage directors. Many of these individuals are Christians. This high occurrence of unofficial adoption and orphan care reveals Chinese citizens’ willingness to singlehandedly tackle the orphan problem after observing the government’s inadequacy. By requiring orphans to receive government care, China may be forcing helpless children into a system unable to help them.
What’s more, this new law could further discourage compassionate, selfless behavior among Chinese people. By brutally enforcing the One-Child Policy, the Chinese government has forced mothers and fathers to strangle their natural instincts by aborting, abandoning and killing their children for more than 30 years. Most recently, a Chinese woman accidentally dropped her “illegal” son into a sewer pipe and feared to claim him as he lay bleeding on an operating table.
Yet some Chinese citizens have quietly resisted this government-imposed culture of death, displaying the sacrificial love of Jesus by caring for abandoned orphans found on their doorsteps. The Chinese government may be crushing the precious expressions of love that have survived decades of oppression and cruelty.
What do you think of this new policy for abandoned Chinese orphans? Do you think it will finally give orphans justice or deprive them of the little justice they might receive? Join the conversation! Tweet at @AllGirlsAllowed or comment on our Facebook page to share your opinion. We can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
by Sarah Elliott, All Girls Allowed
Note: The bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, struck close to home for us. Our team is based in Boston; our office is just a block away from where the attacks took place. Thank you for praying for our city and particularly for the victims and their families. Please continue to hold them in prayer.
Last week we learned that the attacks in Boston brought immeasurable grief to a family in China.
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