China to Stop Giving Orphans Surnames Like ‘State,’ ‘Party’

The Ministry of Civil Affairs will amend its regulations to ensure that names commonly ascribed to parentless children, like Dang and Guo ("Party" and "State") will not be ascribed to orphans.

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Aly Song / Reuters

HIV infected children attend class at an orphanage run by the Fuyang AIDS Orphan Salvation Association in Fuyang, Anhui province.

Chinese orphanages will no longer be permitted to assign generic surnames that reveal orphan status and could thus lead to lifelong discrimination. The Ministry of Civil Affairs will amend its regulations to ensure that names commonly ascribed to parentless children, like Dang and Guo (“Party” and “State”) will be banned, according to state newspaper China Daily.

“We don’t want children who grow up in orphanages to carry labels that imply they are different from those who have parents,” said Chen Lunan, a children’s welfare worker.

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The new regulations, expected to go into effect later this year, will require orphanage officials to instead choose from the list of the 100 most common Chinese family names. Li Jinju, who works at an orphanage in Henan province, said he and fellow staff members named all children admitted before 2010 Dang (“Party”) because they thought the government had been instrumental in caring for these children. However, Jinju said he later realized that this name could follow the children throughout their lives, revealing “that they were raised in an orphanage and that their parents did not want them,” he told China Daily.

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Other childcare facilities already began halting the common practice years ago. Huang Fang, a staff member at a state-funded orphanage in Guangdong province, said the organization began choosing more neutral names in 2008. All children admitted this year, for example, will be named Zhao, she said.

According to ministry statistics, about 100,000 children live in 900 orphanages and children’s facilities across China.

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