WASHINGTON, August 8, 2014 – In China parents are abandoning their children at hospitals, train stations, on the street. They are being told that their children have incurable diseases they cannot afford to treat, the children are the result of a teen or unwanted pregnancy or, often, the child is a girl – which is seen as a loss to Chinese parents as in Chinese tradition only boys can inherit the family legacy, emotionally and financially.
In China, a girl is twice as likely to die in the first year of her life as a boy. For a second girl, that risk triples and their chance of death in the first week of life is high
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A draconian one child policy, and male child, or bias for sons, preference, is devastating Chinese families. Parents turn to abortion, abandonment, gendercide and illegal adoptions that put the child at risk of traffickers and slavers.
Parents are told by doctors that their children’s incurable disease will financially bankrupt them, and there is little else they can do. One girl, 14-year-old Chen Shuzhen of the Hubei Province was abandoned after testing positive for leukemia.
Chen says she understands why her mother abandoned her, but hopes that once she dies her corneas can be used to help another child.
In a 2013 CCTV report it is said that more than 10,000 children are abandoned in China every year. According to Xi Yiqun, vice president of Children’s Hospital of Shanghai, more than 1,000 children are stranded at his hospital each year. But his is just one location.
1,289 children were stranded at the hospital’s five other locations in Shanghai in 2013. Other children’s hospitals, as many as eighty other locations, report similar numbers.
Of the children abandoned, or stranded as officials call them, more than three quarters of the children are disabled or deformed; 9 percent have curable diseases; and 7 percent have incurable diseases.
“Most of the children can be cured, and the cost is affordable for ordinary families. It’s just that the parents are too ignorant and believe their children are doomed,” Xi said.
A grim fact is that due to China’s child laws, when parents remarry they will abandon their children so they can have a new child with their new spouse.
The rest are normal, healthy children. Those normal, healthy children often fall prey to traffickers and unscrupulous doctors profiting in the illegal trade of the children.
Sentenced to death for his role in child trafficking, Zhang Shuhua, a doctor at Maternal and Child Health Hospital in Shanxi Province told one set of parents their children were born with incurable diseases and that it would be better to abandon them
He then sold the children to traffickers.
The One-Child policy has led to a black market for at least 70,000 children a year, which includes abandoned and kidnapped children. Male children that are kidnapped are often sold to couples unable to have a male child.
“We had a 17 year-old girl who gave birth to a healthy baby. She left immediately without even looking at the baby,” Dr. Feng pediatrician for Beijing Tongren Hospital says. “Beijing Children’s Hospital seems to have more of these cases than other hospitals like us. Parents think someone else will take care of their babies.”
The Guangzhou safe haven was opened in January of 2014 and closed in March due to the large number of children, 262 of them, dropped off at the “baby hatch” located in the southern province of Guangdong.
Sixty-seven percent of the infants dropped off were less than one year old and most suffered from cerebral palsy, Down’s and congenital heart disease, according to the Bureau of Civil Affairs.
Parents are wrong. No one takes care of the babies and legally these children have no protection. After a hospital check up they are sent to the Child Welfare Office where they face an uncertain fate.
Education, the change in laws regarding girl children, and access to social welfare is not the only way being used to solve the problem, criminal prosecution is also being used as a deterrent.
The Criminal Law of People’s Republic of China says that a person who fails to support the elderly, infirm or children – infants of their family, shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of no more than five years. If the child dies as a result of the abandonment, the parents may be charged with intentional homicide.
China has been opening “Baby Refuges” to stop children being left in the streets, but is being criticized as it allows people to rely on society, instead of themselves to solve their problems. One center in Guangzhou received 50 abandoned children in 50 days: a center in Shandong Province received more than a hundred children in 11 days.
Reports are that 95% of children that are abandoned in rural areas, where there are no state-controlled orphanages or care facilities.
One solution to the abandonment of unhealthy children, according to Zhou Haibo, a representative at the National People’s Congress, is compulsory premarital medical screening to ensure the health of future children.
China’s Adoption Law states that in order to adopt a person must be a healthy adult over 30 years of age, childless, and capable of fostering and educating the child. The state does not encourage adoption as it fears it may spur human trafficking.
“Legal adoption should be encouraged to create a family environment for the abandoned children. China’s current requirements for adoption are too strict,” he said.
Professor Wang Yuhong at Shandong Women’s College said schools are also to blame. “Sex education is something we are missing at the college and high school level,” she said. “It’s important to make people take responsibility for both their family and society– especially those young mothers who are under 18 years old.”
Americans adopt more orphans from China than any other country, saving 2,587 children in 2011. 3,001 children in 2009. According to UNICEF 74% o those children adopted overseas are disabled or older.
Elderly in China suffer as well as more than 10 million suffer from Alzheimer’s care, but few have access to adequate health care or caregiver support. There is a lack of education, training of health care workers, and insurance coverage is limited.