NEW YORK: After coming under fire for denying a Chinese-American infant a
$25,000 prize in a New Year's baby contest because her mother was not a legal US
resident, the Toys "R" Us company said that it had reversed its decision.
The company said Saturday evening it would award each of the three babies in
the grand prize pool of the "First Baby of the Year Sweepstakes" a $25,000
savings bond. Toys 'R' Us is the parent company of Babies 'R' Us, which
sponsored the contest.
Toys 'R' Us, which opened its first store on the Chinese mainland less than a
month ago, changed its mind after Chinese-American advocates protested and the
story was reported in ethnic newspapers and The New York Times among other
"We love all babies," the company said in
a written statement Saturday. "Our sweepstakes was intended to welcome the first
baby of 2007 and prepare for its future. We deeply regret that this sweepstakes
became a point of controversy."
In this image taken
from video and released by NY-1, Yan Zhu Liu smiles as she holds her
daughter Yuki Lin at New York Downtown Hospital. [AP]
The prize was originally supposed to go to Yuki Lin, who was born at the
stroke of midnight at New York Downtown Hospital, according to hospital
She won a random draw with two other babies for the $25,000 savings bond,
said Toys 'R' Us spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh. The Wayne, New Jersey company had
said it would go to the first American baby born in 2007.
Yuki was born an American citizen. But the company disqualified her because
"the sweepstakes administrator was informed that the mother of the baby born at
New York Downtown Hospital was not a legal resident of the United States", Waugh
Although promotional materials called for "all expectant New Year's mothers"
to apply, Waugh said eligibility rules required babies' mothers to be legal
residents. Many sweepstakes have such requirements, Waugh said.
Attempts to reach Yuki's parents, Yan Zhu Liu and Han Lin, 22, were
unsuccessful Saturday. Their immigration status was not clear.
The original prize was instead awarded to runner-up Jayden Swain, born 19
seconds after midnight at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville,
Georgia. The third baby in the running was born in Bay Shore, New York, to a
couple from El Salvador.
Chinese-American advocates had complained that the toy company's decision
smacks of second-class citizenship. They said the prize was supposed to be for
the child, not the mother. One attorney launched an e-mail campaign on the
issue. "People are just pretty much outraged," John Wang, president of the New
York-based Asian American Business Development Center, told The New York Times.