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.
Reuters
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

Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis Rally Against Racism

PM Netanyahu says he will meet Damas Pakada, the Ethiopia-born Israeli soldier who was filmed being beaten by two policemen More

Ten Migrants Drown in Mediterranean, 4,800 Rescued

All of those rescued are being ferried to Italian ports, with some arriving on Italy's southernmost island, Lampedusa, and others taken to Sicily and Calabria More

HRW: Saudis Using US Cluster Bombs in Yemen

Human Rights Watch says photographs, video and other evidence have emerged indicating cluster munitions have been used in 'recent weeks' in airstrikes in Houthi stronghold in northern Yemen More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs