NEW YORK – Toys "R" Us Inc. has come under fire for denying a Chinese-American infant a $25,000 savings bond prize in a contest for the New Year's first baby because the company said the girl's mother is not a legal U.S. resident.
The company's decision — which came less than a month after it opened its first mainland China store, in Shanghai — has infuriated some Chinese-American advocates.
Yuki Lin was born at the stroke of midnight at New York Downtown Hospital, according to hospital officials. She won a random drawing held to break a tie with two other babies entered in the contest, Toys "R" Us spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said.
The Wayne, N.J.-based company had said the prize would go to the first American baby born in 2007.
Although promotional materials called for "all expectant New Year's mothers" to apply for the contest, Waugh said eligibility rules required babies' mothers to be legal residents. Many sweepstakes have such requirements, Waugh said.
Although Yuki was born an American citizen, Waugh said the contest administrator was told that Yuki's mother "was not a legal resident of the United States."
Attempts to reach Yuki's parents, Yan Zhu Liu and Han Lin, 22, for comment were unsuccessful early Saturday. Their immigration status was not clear.
The prize went instead to runner-up Jayden Swain, born 19 seconds after midnight at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Ga. The third baby in the running was born in Bay Shore, N.Y., to a couple from El Salvador.
Some Chinese-American advocates say the company's decision smacks of second-class citizenship.
"People are just pretty much outraged," said John Wang, president of the New York-based Asian American Business Development Center.
Albert Wang, an attorney, has launched an e-mail campaign on the issue. "She was deprived of $25,000 intended to be used for her college education because of who her parents are," he said.
Janet Keller, a grandmother of the winning baby, said revisiting the contest would be unfair.
"She was disqualified — that should be it," Keller said. "Don't go changing your mind now."