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Orphanage denies abuse charges

Graham Earnshaw

SHANGHAI, Jan 8, Reuter – The directors of a Shanghai orphanage yesterday denied charges in a Human Rights Watch report that children there had been abused and starved to death, and accused one of the report’s main sources of lying for her own purposes.

The report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch-/Asia said that China’s state-run orphanages had allowed thousands of babies, many of them unwanted baby girls, to die from medical neglect or starvation.

A doctor who once worked for the Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute, Zhang Shu-yun, provided much of the detail in the report.

She is currently in Brussels to brief European Union officials on the issue.

“It’s a lie, it’s a lie,” Han Weicheng, a former director of the institute accused by Zhang of a long list of abuses, including the rape of a young female orphan, said.

“Zhang is crazy. abnormal. That’s my personal opinion.”

Han was speaking during a visit by foreign journalists to the spacious, well-equipped institute, which houses about 500 children and 320 staff.

“She [Zhang] makes it sound like this is a slaughter-house,” the director of the Shanghai civil affairs bureau, Shi Derong, told journalists during a briefing at the insti-tute.

He said Zhang had raised many of the allegations in 1991 and 1992, as a result of which Han was suspended from his post as the director of the orphanage for a time.

The official said a report issued in 1993 exonerated Han and the institute.

The comments completely contradicted the account given by Zhang to Human Rights Watch.

Asked why Zhang had raised the allegations if they were not true, Han said: “Actually she wanted to be director [of the institute] But I was the director, so she wanted to pull me down and take my place.”

The Human Rights Watch report alleged child-care workers at the institute selected orphans for death by deprivation of food and water, a process known as “summary resolution”.

The report includes a number of photographs from the Shanghai orphanage, including one of a seriously emaciated child named Jian Xun tied to a bed, allegedly in the final stages of being starved to death.

Shi produced Jian’s medical records and said the child was severely mentally retarded and weighed only 29 kilograms when he arrived at the institute in 1988.

The child improved in the following three years, but then started to lose weight again in 1991 because of constant vomiting and diarrhoea, Shi said.

Shi added that Jian had died in July, 1992, after an attempt had been made to feed him intravenously.

“As you can see in the case of Jian Xun, we don’t use ‘summary resolution’,” Shi said.

The Human Rights Watch report cites official Chinese statistics as indicating that almost as many children die in orphanages every year as are admitted.

Asked to provide mortality-rate records for 1988 to 1993 -the years covered by Zhang’s allegations about the Shanghai institute – Shi said none were immediately available, but they would be passed on to journalists later.

Han said the mortality rate as given in the report was greatly exaggerated and that, from memory, the highest mortality rate for the Shanghai institute was 19 per cent in 1989.

He said he was very bitter about the allegations by Zhang and wanted to sue her for defamation.

“What about my human rights?” he said.

Zhang went to the United States in 1995 and her family followed her.

“Human Rights Watch only believe her, and they move her family to America,” Han said.

“Why do they waste money on this? Why don’t they send the money here for the children?”

Asked about the wider allegations in the report of abuse or deprivation of handicapped orphans on a nationwide scale, the officials declined comment, saying they had not seen the report. REUTER

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