Asian-American Couple’s International Adoption Nightmare
Chinese-Americans from California, Matthew and Grace Huang adopted two sons and a daughter from Africa. The family later traveled to Qatar for Matthew’s work, when their daughter Gloria suddenly died after a “hunger strike.” The Huangs were sent to prison, charged with murder; their sons to an orphanage. Per CBSnews.com, Matthew stated, “They thought we were human traffickers. They said we adopted our children to either harvest their organs or to do medical tests on them…. The Qatari authorities just didn’t understand multi-ethnic adoption.”
The sons were permitted to go back to the States. But the Huangs were imprisoned for a year on a conviction of child endangerment, until a judge granted bail when autopsy discrepancies came to light. Finally, after some diplomatic pressure and legal challenges to an inadequate autopsy and lack of evidence, an appellate court overturned the Huangs’ case. On December 3, 2014, they finally were able to fly back to California.
According to npr.org, “Gloria had trouble absorbing nutrients from food, was malnourished and had had giardia, a parasitic condition, since the Huangs adopted her from Ghana at the age of 4.” According to the California Innocence Project, “From time to time [Gloria] would exhibit an eating disorder—common among children with backgrounds similar to hers—where she would refuse food for days at a time and then eat more than an adult.”
Sources: CBSnews.com, NYTimes.com, and NPR.org.
Adopting a child within the United States is not without hassle or expense, but at least you are unlikely to be jailed in the process! The Huangs’ experience is atypical, and was complicated by their travel to a country where interracial adoption is uncommon. Was racism at play? If charges of organ harvesting came up, it does seem likely. That seems more like an accusation someone would throw at a couple of Chinese descent than at white Americans.
Adoptees often have more than their share of emotional, medical, or psychological needs that need tending. How disheartening that an adoptive mother who was likely attempting to move heaven and earth to treat her daughter’s food disorder then gets blamed for its consequences. The death of a child is one of the worst things that can happen to parents—except if they are blamed for that death and jailed for a year in a foreign prison.
How much, if at all, did the diplomatic pressure from the U.S. affect the appellate court decision? Would that court have made the same ruling without the pressure? Perhaps if they didn’t feel the need to save face because of all the attention, the criminal justice system would have allowed the Huangs to be quietly released.