Prof Shahla Ali, CCPL Fellow, co-authored an article “Book Discussion: Non-Governmental Orphan Relief in China: Law, Policy and Practice, by Anna High: Comments by Zheng Xu and Shahla Ali” in Asian Journal of Law and Society.

Anna High’s masterful and thoughtful book, Non-Governmental Orphan Relief in China: Law, Policy and Practice, examines the interplay between non-governmental and governmental orphan relief efforts in Mainland China. Both specialist and non-specialist readers will appreciate the humanitarian value of this work, focusing as it does on issues of child rights in the context of China’s most disadvantaged children — gu’er, otherwise known as “the lonely orphans.”

High’s book is the result of in-depth socio-legal case-based research published by the Routledge Contemporary China Series focusing on the legal grey zone of non-state orga­nized gu’er relief in contemporary China. It draws on a multi-year process participant observation and semi-structured interviews with non-governmental organizations (NG0s) and private caregivers across rural and urban China to shed light on the ambiguous role of law in child welfare. The author’s nearly decade-long longitudinal ethnographic fieldwork reflects recent developments in Chinese charity law, with particular reference to the silent, and at times invisible, uphill struggle of non-governmental gu’er welfare pro­viders in China.

In the opening chapters of the book, High provides background on the condition of Chinese gu’er. Drawing on extensive fieldwork, High systematically depicts the causes of abandonment, the vulnerability of the orphan, and, importantly, the contri­bution of private caregivers. She illustrates individual stories through in-depth case-studies to provide context for the rapidly changing laws and policies in the private relief sector. Importantly, she highlights the political and ideological context sur­rounding the sensitive question of “who looks after our children” in the Chinese context …

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