Accessibility links

Chinese Children Seeking a Happy Ending

Children wearing traditional costumes pose during preparations for Chinese lunar new year celebrations in Hong Kong on February 17, 2015.

Children wearing traditional costumes pose during preparations for Chinese lunar new year celebrations in Hong Kong on February 17, 2015.

Repeated cases of child abuse in China have shocked the country. They also have led to more protection of children’s rights. But rights activists say the government and private groups need to do more to help children in need.

A small child protection service in Shanghai is trying to stop neglect and violence against children.

Ge-Ge is seven years old. She has been homeless for almost half her life. Her mother suffers from a mental condition. They lived on the streets in Shenzhen for more than three years.

A man named Xiao Xu-Dong learned about Ge-Ge. He told her story to the local media earlier this year. Government officials heard the story and found help for Ge-Ge and her mom.

The mother began to receive treatment for her mental problems. Ge-Ge was sent to a center for children who lost both parents. She was later re-united with her father.

Her story has a happy ending. But social workers are not yet celebrating.

Xiao Xu-Dong spoke on Skype. He said that, “We have many child protection organizations, but why do we still have so many children being abused and neglected?”

Recently, Chinese media reported on repeated cases of child abuse in the country. A six-year-old girl in Yiwu was beaten to death by her own mother. Two girls in Nanjing died from starvation in their own home. The reports shocked many Chinese and led the government to strengthen measures to protect children’s rights.

Xie Chang-E is a lawyer. She offers legal assistance at a child protection service called Hope Home. Ms. Xie said that China has laws to protect children’s rights. But the laws are often unclear, she added, and difficult to put into effect.

In her words, “China’s civil laws and laws on the protection of minors are rather general with no concrete and feasible practices to follow.”

However, the government is starting to recognize the problems in the child welfare system. New rules state that parents or legal guardians who sexually abuse, sell, abandon or violently hurt children will lose their legal right to care for them.

Ms. Xie approves of the new regulations. She says they are a good way to help protect children. But, she says police and other officials do not know about the regulations or do not always follow them.

She also notes that the new regulations have the force of law, but they have not yet been written into laws.

Xiao Xu-Dong, the man who first helped Ge-Ge, also volunteers at Hope Home. He says China needs to create a more complete system to protect children from abuse and domestic violence.

And he said, “As just one volunteer myself, I feel, most of the time, I can’t do much to help these children.” He repeats that although Ge-Ge found her family and is no longer homeless, many children in China are still suffering.

I’m Jim Tedder.

Helen Wu reported this story from Washington, DC. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

neglectn. not giving enough attention or care

social workersn. people who work for a government or private organization that help people who have financial or family problems

welfaren. a state of being happy, healthy or successful; (in this story) a government program for poor or unemployed people that helps pay for their food, housing, medical costs, etc.

abandon – v. to leave alone

Show comments