IN THE photographs the young mother lies on a clinic bed, her hair obscuring her face. She appears as inert as the baby lying beside her. But 23-year-old Feng Jianmei is still alive, whereas her baby girl is not. The baby was killed while still in the womb by an injection arranged by local family-planning officials. They restrained Ms Feng, who was seven months pregnant, and then induced her to give birth to the dead baby.
Even three years ago, Ms Feng’s suffering might have gone unnoticed outside the remote village in the north-western province of Shaanxi where she lives—just another statistic in China’s family-planning programme. But her relatives uploaded the graphic pictures onto the internet, and soon microblogs had flashed them to millions of people across the country. Chinese citizens expressed their outrage online. It is not just the treatment of Ms Feng that they deplore. It is the one-child policy itself.
Prominent voices joined in the criticism. “The outrageous and violent forced- abortion incident in June is not unique to Shaanxi”, wrote Liang Jianzhang, on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. Mr Liang is chief executive of Ctrip, one of China’s most successful travel companies. “Abolition of the absurd family-planning policy is the only way to root out this kind of evil,” he went on. Mr Liang’s post has been retweeted more than 18,000 times.
The scandal is a blow to the one-child policy’s public image, says He Yafu, a demographer and critic of the policy. That image has never been good, even if in recent years many learned to live with it. In 1983, 14m women had abortions organised by family-planning committees (many of them coerced). In 2009, there were 6m. The number has declined in recent years as local officials have more incentives to impose fines on extra births rather than prevent them altogether.
The fine for having extra children is known as the “social maintenance fee”. Mr He estimates the government has collected over 2 trillion yuan ($314 billion) in such fees since 1980. Failure to pay means the second “black” child cannot obtain a household-registration document, or hukou, which brings with it basic rights such as education. The amount of the fine varies from place to place. A husband and wife in Shanghai will each pay 110,000 yuan ($17,300), three times the city’s average annual post-tax income, for a second child. The fine increases with income. The rich can shell out millions.
For Ms Feng, living in a rural area, the fine was lower—40,000 yuan. She was given the option to pay and keep the baby, but could not afford it. Her husband, Deng Jiyuan, earns 4,000 yuan ($630) a month at the local hydroelectric power station, but needed more to pay the fine. So on May 30th he set off for the coal mines of Inner Mongolia to boost his income. It was then that family-planning officials swooped.
At first a dozen officials tried to force Ms Feng into a car. She fled to an aunt’s house, but they broke through the gate, so she escaped to the mountains nearby, where she hid under a bed in the house of a friend. “They laughed when they found her,” says Mr Deng. An official forced her to sign a form (in theory, consent is needed) and after an injection into her belly Ms Feng gave birth to the dead baby 30 hours later.
Not the only one
The public telling of Ms Feng’s story has come as others were already assailing the one-child policy. Yang Zhizhu is one of a handful of people who have publicly criticised the heavy fines. He calls them China’s “terror fee”. Mr Yang and his wife refused to pay a fine for their second daughter. The transgression cost Mr Yang his job as a law professor. In April a sum of 240,300 yuan was taken from his wife’s account. In protest he launched an online “begging” campaign through his microblog account.
Another reason the hold of the one-child policy has been weakening is that it is so full of loopholes. In 2007 a family-planning official estimated that the one-child policy applied to less than 40% of the population. The right personal connections can secure discounts on fines. Couples in rural areas have long been allowed to have a second child if the first is a girl. Many other rules seem almost arbitrary. In Shanghai if either man or wife works in the fishing industry and has been going to sea for five years, the couple may have a second child without facing punishment.
But no loophole could help Feng Jianmei. On June 14th the provincial government apologised to Ms Feng, and said family-planning officials in Shaanxi would be fired. But that deals with the symptoms not the cause. “I had no money to pay the fine,” says her husband. “But does that mean we should suffer the grief of losing a child?”y
Family of Feng Jianmei attacked as ‘traitors’ for talking to foreigners after late termination sparked outrage on microblogs
Feng Jianmei’s hospital was targeted by banner-wielding protesters at the weekend. Photograph: Quirky China News / Rex Features
By Tania Branigan
The family of a woman whose forced late-term abortion caused outrage in China have been attacked as “traitors” for discussing her plight with foreigners, while her husband has not been seen for two days, according to a a relative and a lawyer.
Authorities in Ankang, in Shaanxi province, last week apologised to the couple and said they had suspended three local officials after the publication of a photograph showing Feng Jianmei with the bloodied body of her seven-month-old foetus sparked outrage on microblogs.
Relatives say they have been followed for days, and Feng’s hospital was targeted this weekend by protesters carrying banners, one of which read: “Beat the traitors and expel them.”
Feng’s husband, Deng Jiyuan, has not been seen for two days. His sister Deng Jicai told the Guardian he rang on Tuesday afternoon to say that he was safe, but she did not know his whereabouts.
“The whole family feels very depressed and pressured,” she said. “The government have sent a team to investigate and don’t have a result yet, but right now we want freedom before the investigation results come out.
“Three or four guys are following me. I don’t know who they are.”
Earlier, she told the South China Morning Post the protesters at the hospital this weekend had “shouted and shouted, saying we were ungrateful and traitors since the government had promised to solve this matter but we still talked to foreign media … My cousin, who took pictures of them, was injured, with bruises and scratches all over his body.”
Zhang Kai, a lawyer who has been advising the family, added: “It is impossible the villagers made the banner about Deng Jicai. It must have been orchestrated by local officials.”
He said that higher levels of government had handled the matter correctly by launching an investigation but noted: “Things seem to be getting worse for the family, as some local officials have to take responsibility for this incident, and it will be criminal responsibility. They are panicking.”
Supporters also believe local officials may be behind a large number of online attacks on the family and smears about them.
Zhang said a relative who visited Feng on Tuesday found her tyres had been slashed when she returned to the hospital car park.
Forced abortions in China are illegal, but critics say they are carried out because of the pressure on officials to meet strict birth-control targets.
Feng said she was coerced into the abortion. Her husband added that she had been hooded, abducted and forcibly injected to induce the abortion because they were unable to pay a 40,000-yuan fine for breaking birth-control rules. Local officials said at the time that Feng had agreed “after repeated persuasion”.
Officials in Zhenping county and Ankang did not answer calls on Tuesday.
Asked whether officials would investigate claims of harassment of the family, a spokesman for Shaanxi provincial government, who gave his name only as Mr Jia, said: “I don’t know where you got that information. I have not heard of that. You said you had heard it – how did you hear it? The government is doing the investigation. We have announced everything on our website. You should check our website rather than following rumours.”
A spokesman for the National Population and Family Planning Committee said its investigation was continuin
Government officials forced Feng Jianmei, who was 7 months pregnant with her second daughter, to undergo an abortion ten days
[WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE]
Officials forcibly abort the baby of Feng Jianmei, who was 7 months pregnant.
ALL GIRLS ALLOWED
Click for another PHOTO: Officials dumped Ms. Feng’s baby at her side following a forced abortion last week.
Shaanxi, China—Government officials forced Feng Jianmei, who was 7 months pregnant with her second daughter, to undergo an abortion ten days ago. Five family planning officials abducted Ms. Feng on June 2nd while her husband, Deng Jiyuan, was away at work. When she could not pay the fine of 40,000 RMB ($6,270), they forcibly aborted her daughter.
“Feng Jianmei’s story demonstrates how the One-Child Policy continues to sanction violence against women every day,” said Chai Ling. “We learned that family planning officials in Jianmei’s region are launching a campaign of forced abortions this month. They received a lower grade from the government because of ‘over-quota’ births, and Jianmei’s story shows us how they plan to respond. Unfortunately her family was the first to receive the ‘opening of the knife.’”
Last night Chai Ling of All Girls Allowed was able to locate the couple and speak to them at length. Deng Jiyuan told her that five men abducted his wife on June 2nd and took her to a hospital. “At the hospital they held her down,” said Jiyuan. “They covered her head with a pillowcase. She couldn’t do anything because they were restraining her.” The men had her “sign” an abortion consent form by inking her thumb and pressing it forcibly against the paper. Then they injected toxins into the brain of her unborn daughter.
Jianmei said, “I could feel the baby jumping around inside me all the time, but then she went still.”
Jianmei’s father-in-law rushed to the hospital, but officials prevented him from seeing her until after the abortion. The couple said one of the family planning officials was named Zhang Xiaosong.
After the injection, Jianmei endured painful contractions at the hospital until 3am local time on June 4th. Then she gave birth to her deceased child without any anesthesia. “It was much more painful than my first childbirth. The baby was lifeless, and she was all purple and blue,” said the mother.
Chai Ling says that Jianmei’s voice was filled with sorrow as she spoke. She said her elder daughter asked, “What happened to your tummy? Where did the baby go?” She has experienced a constant severe headache since the forced abortion. “If this had not happened,” she told Ling, “we would be joyful and everything would be fine.”
Her husband Jiyuan spoke to Ling with great pain, saying “I was gone and she had nobody with her. She is not doing well. A few hours ago, she was thinking about the baby and pulled a knife against herself. I had to stop her.” He wants to help her but feels unable to do anything, “What can I do?” he said, “I’m just an average worker. I have no power.”
Chai Ling asked Jianmei what she would like to say to the public, and she responded, “I wish all the other children in the world would be happy, healthy, and joyful.” Ling was amazed at the grace she showed and comforted the grieving mother, praying that God would restore the immense loss she experienced.
Ling called for action: “Anyone in a position to act—the Chinese central government, foreign embassies in Beijing, the U.S. Department of State—must condemn what happened to Feng Jianmei and protect other women from forced abortion. President Hu Jintao said forced abortions do not happen in China, but this family’s testimony shows that they do. China cannot continue to sanction the violence committed against its female citizens by family planning officials. Enough is enough. China must end the One-Child Policy and forced abortion. I pray they will, in Jesus’ name.”
All Girls Allowed (http://www.allgirlsallowed.org) was founded by Chai Ling in 2010 with a mission to display the love of Jesus by restoring life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China and to reveal the injustice of the One-Child Policy.
Contact All Girls Allowed: