China: Chained children in orphanage create furore

Since June 29, photos have been circulated online showing a boy`s foot shackled to a bench.

Updated: Jul 05, 2012, 10:24 AM IST

Beijing: A Chinese provincial government has sacked officials of an orphanage after reports that two mentally challenged children were found shackled there.

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 showed children constrained with chains and ties, the state-run Xinhua news agency has reported.

A group of doctors have also offered health check-ups for youngsters in the orphanage where two boys were shackled with chains on June 29, Xinhua reported.

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

Since June 29, photos have been 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.

Netizens described the photos as heart-breaking and a brutal breach of the organisation`s charity spirit.

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

One of them, 6-years-old and deaf-mute, has epilepsy while the other of the same age group 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, of which 19 are physically or mentally disabled, was only manned by four elderly women, who had received no training or care provision, the report said.

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

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

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

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

Zhong Qi, a researcher at Zhejiang Social Sciences Academy, said China now needs 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 fulfil its role in the charity sector," Zhong said.