Orphan chaining scandal exposes charity flaws

Updated: 2012-07-04 16:28


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HANGZHOU - Volunteers have rushed to help out at an orphanage in Cangnan county, in East China's Zhejiang province, after a child abuse scandal was exposed at the site.

Days after photos taken at the orphanage showed children constrained with chains and ties, a group of doctors have also offered health check-ups for youngsters there.

Orphan chaining scandal exposes charity flaws

Two boys are constrained with chains at an orphanage in Cangnan county, Zhejiang province on June 29. [Photo/nddaily.com] 

The orphanage's director, has been removed from the post on suspicion of dereliction of duty, according to a press release issued by the county government in response to a case that has sparked fury on China's Internet.

Since June 29, photos have circulated online showing a boy's foot shackled to a bench, and another tied to the bench with cloth around his neck. Both appeared to be mentally disabled.

The pictures, taken and posted online by an astounded visitor, quickly stirred up a storm of anger. Netizens described the photos as heart-breaking and a brutal breach of the organization's charity spirit.

The furor prompted an investigation by local authorities, who said the nurses had used chains to confine the two boys, both of whom suffer mental illness.

One of them, 6 years old and deaf-mute, has epilepsy, while the other, aged 6, reports symptoms of schizophrenia with an inclination toward violence, according to nurses at the orphanage.

To prevent the boys from defecating uncontrollably and hurting other children, the nurses, resorted to the constraints, they said.

Investigators found the institution was poorly managed and lacked personnel. The orphanage of 21 children, 19 of them physically or mentally disabled, was only manned by four elderly women, who had received no training or care provision.

Moribund charity

Experts said mismanagement is rampant in China's charities such as orphanages and charitable nursing homes, after they were contracted or sold to businessmen or private organizations.

In 2010, a worker in an orphanage in Shenzhen was exposed to have used tape and clamps to force children to "shut up".

According to officials, the orphanage in Cangnan was contracted to a local citizen. The government gave a monthly subsidy of 700 yuan ($110) to the contractor for every child it took in.

The management of the orphanage, including hiring nurses and spending on the children, was in the hands of the contractor.

Following the scandal, the county government has pledged to improve amenities and allocated nine care providers to the center. A thorough inspection, it said, was also under way to straighten irregularities in charity institutions in the county.

But Zhong Qi, a researcher at Zhejiang Social Sciences Academy, said China now needs a systematic reflection on its means of running charities.

"After blaming the brutality of the care givers and the contractor, we should not forget one important factor in this tragedy: the lack of supervision and the failure of the government to fulfill its role in the charity sector," Zhong said.