During my travels in China we visited at random a village that was approximately six to eight kilometers from a County Family Planning Office. This same office also housed the office of the UNFPA. After leaving instructions with our taxi driver we walked up to a group of villagers that were gathered outside on a wooden porch. Present were both men and women and some small children. We struck up a casual conversation and asked them if they would talk to us about family life in their village. They were very friendly and appeared pleased to have visitors from outside of China. It was just days before Chinese National Day and the Moon Festival so everyone was in a holiday mood. As we began to speak with those present on the porch more villagers began to gather, curious to discover the reason for our visit. At times it was difficult to carry on a conversation as everyone seemed eager to talk and answer our many questions. When we began to ask pointed questions about family planning policies in their village I thought they might be bothered by the subject matter and not quite as eager to talk. To my surprise they continued with the same enthusiasm.
One particular young lady began to tell us of another woman in a nearby village who was forced to leave her home and hide in another county to protect her baby from being aborted. As she relayed the details she became very emotional and attempted to hide her tears by laughing and covering her face with her hands. It was a few minutes before she was able to regain her composure and finish telling us her story. At first we understood her to say that the village was a great distance away. We later learned that it was just a few kilometers to our destination once we returned to the main road. All of the women from young to old expressed what a terrible thing it was to have this “family planning.” After we finished speaking with the villagers we asked one of the men to give us directions to the village in hopes of speaking with the woman who had fled her home to protect her baby. We thanked everyone profusely and left to find this woman.
After pulling out onto the main road we went only three or four kilometers until we turned onto a dirt road that led back to the village. We once again left our taxi driver with instructions to wait as we walked on a path that led to the houses in the village. The homes were three stories high made of brick and cement. They were built very close together and we walked on a narrow path that could best be described as a maze. It wound its way between the brick homes that made up the village. Along the path, we found an older gentleman crouched down washing some green vegetables. We asked him if he knew the woman for whom we were searching. We soon discovered that he was the woman’s father-in-law and was very eager to speak to us about the events related to his daughter-in-law’s pregnancy. In spite of the fact that I was unable to understand him, I could tell by the tone in his voice that he was very angry as he relayed to us his story and that of his daughter-in-law.
I had previously learned from another villager that the family planning policies in this county allowed a woman to have two children only if her first child was a girl. However, the woman must wait for four years before becoming pregnant again. In the interim she is forced to have an IUD inserted to prevent an illegal pregnancy. In this particular woman’s case she had become pregnant again within two and one half years of the birth of her daughter despite the fact that the IUD was in place. Fearing for the life of her child this woman left her daughter in the care of her family and fled to another county to hide until her baby was born. Upon learning that she had gone into hiding, the Family Planning Officials ordered the destruction of her home along with the home of her father-in-law and brother-in-law. They went to the roof and every floor of each of their homes and jackhammered large holes in the cement of each level. They tore out their doors and windows and destroyed all of the furniture within their homes. They imprisoned her mother, father, brother, sister, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law. Her father-in-law was able to escape with the children and went into hiding. All of this occurred on April 5th, 2000, a day that is known as Chinese Traditional Day or “Qingming.”
It was not until she was able to raise 17,000 RMB (the equivalent of 2,000 US dollars) from her village neighbors that her family members were freed from prison. We also learned that she must pay another fine of 17,000 RMB before she can obtain a national identity number for her son. Without this number her son will be unable to attend school, receive medical attention or become employed later in life. He will never be able to marry and have a family of his own. He is one of what the Chinese call “black children.” Should this woman finally be able to pay the additional fine she will still be required to pay double fees for her son’s school supplies.
After we spoke with the father-in-law he took us to meet his daughter-in-law and she told us the same story. She showed us the areas that had been destroyed in her home as well. Before leaving the village we were able to meet her beautiful little boy.