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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs