Mitchell expresses "outrage" at infanticide in Chinese orphanages


THE Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Gay Mitchell, has expressed "outrage" at the "starvation to death of children, neglect, abuse and violation of human rights in state orphanages in China" as exposed by Channel 4's programme, Return To The Dying Rooms, on Tuesday night.

"Such infanticide and abuses of human rights, wherever it occurs, cannot and must not be tolerated by the international community," he said in a statement yesterday.

Mr Mitchell said he would be raising the issue as a matter of urgency with both the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste and asking that "the revulsion of the Irish Government and people be brought immediately to the attention of the Chinese authorities through their ambassador to Ireland."

Mr Mitchell said he would also raise the issue with the Italian ambassador as representative of the EU presidency to have the European Union seek a full investigation by the Chinese authorities.

"The scenes depicted and raised in the programme, of unacceptable conditions, neglect, and in many cases death by summary resolution, i.e. death of infants by deliberate starvation, are frightening and heartbreaking. I am horrified and sickened by the images depicted in this programme," Mr Mitchell said.

Calls to the Chinese embassy yesterday afternoon were answered by a recorded message saying that the embassy was only open in the morning.

In a statement the Irish National Committee for UNICEF expressed concern about the findings of a report by the independent watchdog body, Human Rights Watch Death by Default, a policy of fatal neglect in China's state orphanages - on which last night's programme was based.

"The report alleges that thousands of children are being allowed to die every year from medical neglect and starvation in China's state run orphanages, with the tacit approval of senior political leaders," the statement went on.

UNICEF quoted its executive director, Ms Carol Bellamy, saying that such actions would clearly contravene the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which China has ratified.

It notes that UNICEF is against the institutionalisation of children and has been working with the Chinese government to provide for "the care of disabled children within the home and by the community".

Ms Helen Keogh of the Progressive Democrats said the attendance of women from Ireland and other countries at last year's UN women's conference in Beijing had helped to make the Chinese regime more conscious of world opinion.

"In that sense, it was right to go there. Issues such as population control and the treatment of girl children were raised by those at the conference. You had to be in there to do this, because it's such a closed country."