Officials In Lankao, Where A Deadly Fire Destroyed A Private Orphanage, Might Be Blaming The Adoptive Mother [UPDATE]

Yuan Lihai

On Friday, a fire at a private orphanage in Lankao county, Henan province killed six children ages seven months to five years and one 20-year-old young adult. The story’s sad enough without any of other details, but then you learn that the shelter was run by Yuan Lihai, a former street vendor who has taken in more than 100 homeless children, many of them sick or disabled. And then you learn that she’s actually a controversial figure, as skeptics accuse her of defrauding insurance companies and selling children. Who do you believe?

To muddle everything, the Lankao county government issued its statement yesterday. As reported by AP:

“There is a direct relationship between today’s situation and the fact that some related government departments failed to enforce supervision and loosened management on purpose,” deputy county governor Wu Changsheng said at a Saturday press conference as quoted by the news report. “They should shoulder responsibility, and that’s a loophole in our work.”

There are two ways to read that statement. The first: we should have done more to help Yuan Lihai, who took care of the city’s orphans when we could not; the tragedy is on us. The second: we should have done more to restrict Yuan Lihai, who was illegally operating an unlicensed orphanage; the tragedy is on her on us for not controlling her.

Glass half-full or glass half-empty: which are you?

It’s clear which side the Chinese public has taken:

On China’s social media, the public have shown overwhelming sympathy toward Yuan. A Saturday editorial by the official Xinhua News Agency blamed the local government’s inaction and media — who had previously praised Yuan’s actions — for the tragedy.

“The selective blindness of the local government and media reports prior to the tragedy has turned out to be more dangerous than the fire itself,” the editorial read. “And until those with the power to rectify these issues open their eyes, similar tragedies are bound to happen.”

We don’t know yet whether Yuan will be punished. The cause of the fire is also unknown.

Let’s end on an optimistic note:

Wu told reporters that the county would spare no effort to build a welfare center in 2013 to ensure no abandoned child should be left uncared for.

UPDATE, 1/9, 11:10 am: Six local officials have been fired

UPDATE, 1/9, 5:11 pm: Xinhua reports the blaze was caused by children playing with fire.

China Officials Take Blame in Deadly Shelter Fire (AP)

5 Responses to “Officials In Lankao, Where A Deadly Fire Destroyed A Private Orphanage, Might Be Blaming The Adoptive Mother [UPDATE]”

  1. KopyKatKiller

    If the CCP cared about Chinese people, poor street vendors wouldn’t be shouldering the responsibility of providing care for the children the CCP doesn’t care about.

    Reply
  2. fdawei David

    Why do we always have to wait for a horrendous and tragic event such as this to be moved to action? How about Yuan Lihai who did what no one else dared…take in these discarded children who were abandoned by their birth parents and look after them to the best of her ability.
    Why does the government now accuse her of running an illegal orphanage? Surely with the local government’s ever-presence into every facet of every local citizen’s life, the local officials have to have know and most definitely bear the responsibility for the fire for not designing a home for these innocent babies whose only “fault” was their physical and mental condition.
    As Wu Chansheng stated, the local officials should shoulder the responsibility. Also that the county would spare no effort to build a welfare center in 2013 to ensure no abandoned child should be left uncared for.
    Yuan LiHai should be praised, spared from any miscarriage of justice and asked to run the newly built orphanage based on her past devotion to these unfortunate children as well as her own instincts for survival.
    All these unfounded rumors about her so-called transgressions and unproven misdeeds must be scrubbed from the Internet, Weibo and other social networks.
    Innocent until proven otherwise is a good motto in this situation !.

    Reply
    • RhZ

      >>Why does the government now accuse her of running an illegal orphanage? Surely with the local government’s ever-presence into every facet of every local citizen’s life, the local officials have to have know and most definitely bear the responsibility for the fire for not designing a home for these innocent babies whose only “fault” was their physical and mental condition.

      You answered the question yourself. Under the vague rules of the party, if something serious happens on your watch, some official or many will be fired. So, they have to blame her for the fire.

      When the story of the 5 boys who died in Guizhou came out, several officials lost their jobs. But honestly is that reasonable? Should we blame them for such tragedies? In my view, that’s pretty pointless and ineffective.

      Blame should lie on those who have the actual ability to prevent the harm. With this orphanage, the case is stronger that the local government should bear responsibility, although they will argue that the organization was illegal anyway. But that leads to a conclusion that the government can just make everything illegal and escape oversight responsibilities.

      Every time there is some kindergarten-related tragedy (except for the attacks) its always an illegal one. I wonder why the places available in legal kindergartens are so few that there is a demand for illegal ones…

      Reply
    • terroir

      Charity is a touchy subject in China; someone who does something good is making someone else look bad.

      Calling it: police determine this was arson, but never find out who’s responsible.

      Reply
    • Wick

      “Good deeds” here are rarely absent of some form of monetary gain. I highly doubt she’s sheltered these children out of the kindness of her heart. I hope authorities do a thorough investigation into this matter and determine what exactly is going on here. I definitely would not recommend her “run the newly built orphanage based on her past devotion to these unfortunate children” until the matter is truly investigated. Trafficking children is very common here.

      Reply

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