BEIJING, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- China's new adoption rules are not meant to restrict the number of foreigners who can adopt Chinese children, but to ensure that kids receive the best possible family care, according to an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
Lu Ying, director of the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA) under the ministry, explained that China now has far fewer children available for adoption by foreign couples.
"More domestic families have adopted children from our center in recent years and economic and social development has meant that fewer children have been abandoned or orphaned," Lu said.
According to international conventions, preference is given to domestic families rather than foreign couples.
The number of foreigners applying to adopt a child in China has increased, and they usually have to wait 14 to 15 months, Lu said.
"The new rules will help shorten waiting time for qualified foreigners and speed up the process for children, especially the disabled, so that they can go to their new families, where they can get better education and medical treatment, more quickly," he said.
The rules have been made in the interests of the children, to guarantee them optimal family conditions, he said.
The new rules, to take effect on May 1, 2007, make it more difficult for overweight, single and economically precarious foreigners to adopt. They give priority to stable, well-off foreign couples aged between 30 and 50.
Reports by foreign media said the new rules were aimed at curbing the number of foreigners who can adopt Chinese children.
Xing Kaimin, a CCAA official, denied this, saying that the new criteria were meant to protect children's interests and not to show prejudice against less qualified applicants, who can still apply.
Obese people, for example, are more likely to suffer from disease and might have a shorter life expectancy, which is not without consequence for the life of the adopted child, China Daily quoted Xing as saying.
Other criteria state that the applicant couple must have been married for at least two years, and those who were divorced must have remarried at least five years previously.
The current law allows single foreigners to adopt Chinese children, but requires the father to be at least 40 years older than the adopted girl.
A new requirement states that adopters must have less than four children.
The new rules will provide a reference for foreign adoption agencies, which can offer preferential arrangements for qualified families and improve efficiency, Lu said.
More than 100 licensed adoption agencies in 16 countries have been informed of the revisions.
But Lu said the priority criteria might be modified over time.
More than 50,000 Chinese children are reported to have been adopted by foreigners in the past 10 years, with 80 percent of them going to U.S. families.
About 8,000 Chinese children were adopted by U.S. families last year. The figure was 5,000 in 2001.