Legal first sparked by toddler's plight

Minors who have been abandoned or tortured, whose rights might be violated or who have physical or mental diseases, are entitled to have their own representatives.

A 3-year-old girl born with a rare disease has a representative to safeguard her rights during her parents’ divorce proceedings.

This is the city’s first case of this kind, and it brings children’s welfare into the limelight.

Born with inherited metabolic disorders, the girl, nicknamed Tongtong, can’t speak, eat or move her body. Her disease left the family shouldering a heavy burden, and caused her parents to split up, according to the Putuo District People’s Court.

In a divorce request filed to the court, neither of her parents wanted to take responsibility for her, claiming they couldn’t afford to raise her. To safeguard her rights, Pan Xiaojing, a women’s federation official, was appointed by the court as her representative.

As a result of her efforts, one of the spouses agreed to raise Tongtong. The other was ordered to pay 3,000 yuan (US$455) a month to support her, and set aside 100,000 yuan to create a foundation for her.

The process was supervised by the notarial office.

Also, a qualified care giver was appointed to provide 24-hour professional care to Tongtong. The bill was covered by her parents.

According to Chinese law, people under the age of 16 can’t file a lawsuit or make requests at the court by themselves. So, children of parents who are divorced find it hard to speak out on their wishes or have their rights safeguarded.

As a result, Shanghai courts are considering introducing independent, third-party child representatives.

In a seminar held last Friday, Shanghai High People’s Court said in divorce cases, minors who have been abandoned or tortured, whose rights might be violated or who had physical or mental diseases, are entitled to have their own representatives. They will be picked from the women’s federation.

“It is a revolution,” said Huang Xiangqing, deputy director of the court.

“In future, we will work together with education authorities to figure out a system suitable for China.”

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