News / Asia

Chinese Mother, Fined $54,200 for Flouting One-child Policy, Sues Police

FILE - A man walks past a roadside sculpture which promotes China's one-child policy, in Beijing.
FILE - A man walks past a roadside sculpture which promotes China's one-child policy, in Beijing.
Chinese warehouse worker Liu Fei was fined 330,000 yuan ($54,200), or 14 times her yearly wage, for having a second child. Her failure to pay means the boy has no access to basic rights like schooling or healthcare.
Liu's desperation prompted a fruitless attempt to sell her kidney and her eight-year-old boy's plea to sell his instead.
Their dilemma has now triggered a rare legal battle against the police for denying the boy a “hukou” – a household registration - due to strict family planning laws.
The case will be heard in a Beijing court on Friday.
Liu's inability to pay the fine has left her son, Xiaojie, without an official identity. Family planning officials in Beijing told Liu in 2011 she would not be able to obtain a “hukou” if she did not pay up.
“When I saw [the fine], I thought this was inconceivable,” said a tearful Liu, 41. “I had no idea I would be fined so much. If I had known, I would never have given birth.”
Liu's ordeal underscores the punitive nature of China's family planning policy, beyond the more well-known stories of forced abortions and sterilizations, and highlights the plight of an estimated 13 million undocumented children, known as “black children”.
In China, “black” implies something illegal, outside of the mainstream or unofficial. Liu asked for her and her son to be identified by pseudonyms to avoid drawing attention.
Beijing gives local governments a wide mandate to enforce the one-child policy. Even as China relaxes the rules, allowing millions of families to have a second child, government encroachment into family matters will continue. Family planning officials will still require families to apply for licenses to have children, leaving room for possible abuse.
Ma Jiantang, head of the National Bureau of Statistics, said in 2011 that in most of these cases, authorities denied children documentation because the families could not pay the family planning fines.
In July, a 16-year-old girl in southwestern Sichuan was granted a “hukou” after she tried to kill herself by swallowing poison, media said.
“China is a country in which one is unable to move without documentation,” said Yang Zhizhu, a former Beijing-based law professor, who lost his job in 2010 after he and his wife had a second daughter.
“Without a 'hukou', one cannot go to school, join the army, take an exam, get married, open a bank account or take a plane or train,” Zhizhu explained.
‘You’re Like a Puppy’
On Tuesday, a group of 10 lawyers and academics sent letters to four government agencies, including the State Council, China's cabinet, and the ministry of public security, urging them to review requirements to file for a “hukou” and scrap the need for fines to be paid first.
“Without this document, you're just like a puppy or a kitten, raised at home,” said Huang Yizhi, Liu's lawyer.
“This is related to a person's most fundamental right, but because she didn't pay the social support fee, the police refused to give him a hukou. I think this condition is certainly unreasonable and illegal,” said Yizhi, referring to Liu’s son, Xiaojie.
The fine, known as the “social support fee”, is meant to go towards the government budget to compensate for resources and public services the child would use, according to state news agency Xinhua.
However, there is mounting anger at the lack of transparency as to where the fees, which amounted to more than 16.5 billion yuan ($2.7 billion) in 2012, end up, according to Wu Youshui, a lawyer based in the eastern province of Zhejiang.
Wu said local officials had told him the fines were often either returned to village and township governments as rewards, or kept by county family planning commission officials “for their own expenses.”
“The less developed the area, the more dependent the government is on birth-control fines, because they have very little tax revenue,” he said. “Some village and township officials have told me explicitly: 'This is how we make money.’”
Liu's legal nightmare started in 2011 when she sought out the police and family planning officials to apply for a “hukou” for Xiaojie. According to family planning officials, Liu's son is considered her third child. She had been married and divorced twice - she has a 20-year-old daughter from her first marriage, and her second husband also had a son.
Liu works in the warehouse department of an air-conditioning company, earning 2,000 yuan ($330) a month. Her two ex-husbands have died and she has tried to persuade officials that she should not be fined on account of her ex-husband's child.
Tried to Sell her Kidney in Desperation
On Friday, Liu goes to court. Police and local family planning officials could not be reached for comment.
Liu said she was so desperate at one point that she tried to sell a kidney. She looked on the Internet, but was told by some would-be buyers she was too old.
So Xiaojie came up with another idea.
“I went to the Family Planning Commission and said: 'My mother wants to sell her kidney,'” he said in their apartment on the southern outskirts of Beijing. “I said: 'I wouldn't let my mother sell it, I'll sell my own kidney.'”
Xiaojie attends a primary school close to his house which has not asked for his “hukou”, though he will need it to register for high school and university.
Liu said she sought out a deputy director of the Family Planning Commission in the district of Fangshan, where she lives. He told her that her fine was the “lowest” possible.
Liu looked on the Internet for help and saw that a group of lawyers was demanding disclosure of the use of family planning fines. She got in touch with Huang, who took her case on for free.
But neither Huang nor Liu is hopeful.
“After all, the court and the police are all in the same area,” Huang said. “Although there should be no relationship between an independent judiciary and the administration, in reality, there is a definite link, so it's difficult to say what the result will be. I'm not very optimistic,” said Huang.
The two-year battle has taken its toll on Liu. She said she cried every day.
“If the law is fair, I think this problem will be solved,” Liu said. “But who among us dares to believe in the law now? If this doesn't work, I will appeal. If I don't succeed, I will have destroyed my son's whole life.”

You May Like

Photogallery Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs