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Thursday, April 1, 1999 Published at 19:12 GMT 20:12 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

China encourages adoption

With the one-child policy, many Chinese parents prefer sons

By Duncan Hewitt in Beijing

China has introduced a revised adoption law which officials say is designed to encourage citizens to adopt more children, particularly orphans and the disabled.

  • The age threshold for adoptive parents has been lowered from 35 to 30.

  • Despite the country's one child policy, Chinese parents with a child of their own will now be able to adopt children who are orphaned, disabled or whose natural parents cannot be traced.

  • They will also be able to adopt more than one child.

  • Foreigners will be required to give greater evidence of their financial and physical ability to provide for the children.

Official reports show that China's one child policy, combined with a traditional preference for sons, has led many parents to abandon children - girls in particular.

Disabled children have also been handed over to orphanages.

Yet many Chinese people have been unwilling to adopt and the process has been governed by complex and restrictive rules.

Freeing children from institutions

Officials from the Ministry of Civil Affairs said they hope the revised law would encourage more people to adopt and eliminate unlicensed adoptions outside official channels.

Experts say they hope the law will free many children from a lifetime in institutional care.

However, the law has not been without controversy. At least one Chinese province has attempted to resist the liberalisation of the rules governing parents who already have their own child.

Complicated foreign adoptions

Adoption agencies abroad are hoping that the new law will remove the confusion and disputes between different Chinese government departments which have often complicated the process for foreigners seeking to adopt Chinese children.

Figures show that more than 3,000 Chinese children are adopted by Americans alone each year.

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