Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dr. Changfu Chang, Brian Stuy, Kay Johnson, and little ol' me

In the post Dr. Changfu Chang, Adoption, Trafficking, Corruption, Record-Keeping, Identity, I summarized the remarks of Dr. Chang, documentary filmmaker, after a showing of two of his films at a meeting arranged by my local FCC chapter.  Here's my account of what Dr. Chang shared about trafficking in China:
He said that some (unidentified) people were claiming that as many as 30% of the children in international adoption were trafficked. However, he could assure us that that was not true and that we simply should "stop worrying about it." Only a miniscule number have been trafficked, he claimed. He specifically mentioned the LA Times article about family planning authorities stealing children and the earlier Hunan scandal where a family was convicted on trafficking charges, but did not directly address whether those well-known episodes were part of that very small number he concedes or whether those stories are simply not true.

Dr. Chang did not define trafficking or adoption corruption. He did say that what we in the West might think of as corruption would not necessarily be thought of as corruption in China. He was very concerned that we in the West were making moral judgments about trafficking and corruption without considering the context of Chinese culture.

I did not find his denial of wide-spread trafficking credible because he offered no evidence. I also can't credit that 30% figure since he did not say who claimed 30% of children were trafficked, much less offer evidence in support of it. I felt I knew as much (and as little) about adoption corruption and trafficking in China after his talk as I knew before it. It was pretty much a wash.
Brian Stuy responded at his blog, taking issue with Dr. Chang's assessment of the state of corruption in Chinese adoption, concluding:
 If you define "corruption" in terms of international law, Dr. Chang's statement that "some (unidentified) people were claiming that as many as 30% of the children in international adoption were trafficked", and that it "was not true and that we simply should 'stop worrying about it'" is either gross ignorance, a misunderstanding of the term, or a lie to save face.  There is no other option.
Brian has now posted in the comments the gist of an email from Dr. Kay Johnson, author of Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son, who is familiar with Dr. Chang and his work.  She says:

I think the main problem here may be the definition of terms. The Chinese term for "trafficking" often includes a word that means abduction (guaimai). US Adoptive parents also sometimes assume that the term "trafficking" means kidnapping or abduction. The way you use trafficking when you refer to finder's fees as "trafficking" is probably closer to the Chinese term fanzi or fanying, which means a dealer or hawker of children, a term that does not indicate how the children were obtained.

So I guess that when Changfu says "this is rare" he may be thinking "guaimai" and he assumes perhaps his audience is asking him about the frequency of kidnapped children being sent into international adoption. Is this really 30% as they have heard? I don't think any of us are prepared to estimate such a high figure for kidnapped children in IA, even if one includes birth planning seizures of birth children. Including seizures of domestically adopted children would increase the percentage considerably but still not to 30% over the last 15-20 years.
Another commenter at Brian's blog said that she had talked to Dr. Chang and that he claimed to have been "terribly misquoted" (I have not heard directly from Dr. Chang about any problems he has with my account.) As I stated at Brian's blog, I stand by what I reported as to what Dr. Chang said. 

I also noted in my post that Dr. Chang did not define adoption trafficking or corruption, which made it difficult to understand what was being described as "30% of the children in international adoption were trafficked," or "[o]nly a miniscule number have been trafficked" or even precisely what it was that we, as adoptive parents, should "stop worrying" about.  Dr. Johnson seems to confirm that that might have been the basis of a miscommunication between Dr. Chang and his audience.

So there you have it, for what it's worth.


Reena said...

Dr. Chang deliverd pretty much the same talk as you describe following a showing of his latest movie at one of my local FCC events as well. I pretty much interpreted that he was referring to what we would deem actual kidnappings. The whole commentatry about not applying Western morals onto people in China etc.

His unsubstantiated count of 30% did not go far with me either.

His movies are interesting.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Stuy is so desperate to prove that there are incentive programs and child trafficking taking place throughout China that he tilts information in his favor and claims to do statistical studies when in fact he is just a guy who adopted 3 kids from China and has no expertise in running research projects or processing complicated data.
He claims to have empirical data proving anomalies in adoption information. He claims to have access to information in China that no one else has. In truth, he has neither. Just suspicions that he presents as truth.

While many of us who have children adopted from China know that the possibility is there that our daughters were delivered to orphanages by trafficking or incentive programs, we also know that there is just as strong, if not stronger chance that they ended up at orphanages because of the one child policy. Being very familiar with Mr. Stuy's blog and interviews, the one child policy is the elephant in the room with him.

Mr. Stuy wants to be the guy who blew the lid off the "scandal" he sees. He is out to prove what he suspects rather than out to find the truth. There is a difference.