18 year old Haixia Tang and Huaju Chen, 30,(they are from Haihe Town, Sheyang County, Jiangsu Province) fell in love and had a baby girl in 1998. The girl’s father was 12 years older than her mother. Because Tang was not old enough to be legally married back then, the couple was not allowed to apply for a marriage certificate. The newborn daughter brought happiness into the couple’s life. But three months after the birth, the county court sentenced the father to a year (from October ‘98 to October ‘99) in jail for getting involved in a bar fight. The young mother and her child ended up living in her husband’s aunt’s home. A year later, her husband returned home and registered the daughter with the local police. During the morning on May 11, 1999, Tang and her daughter were taken from their residence by some unidentified people. The 19-year old Tang was brought to a local Family Planning Office (FPO), and then jailed. While she was in jail, the guards did not even allow her to use the toilet. They also slapped her in the face several times. It was around 8:00 in the evening when the FPO staff members robbed her of her child. It has been 14 years now, and the government has never told the mother a single thing about the child or given any legal documents concerning their custody of the baby.
During the past 14 years, the couple has never stopped looking for their daughter. The FPO has refused to respond to the couple’s inquiry. Their reason is that the couple violated family planning regulations. Every time the couple would see other parents spending time with their children, Chen and her wife couldn’t hold back their tears as they were reminded of the joyful moments they spent with their child in the past.
Legally speaking, does the FPO in China have the authority to rob others of their babies? In the law on Population and Family Planning, we find no reference that supports that officers of the FPO can rob people of their children. Article 41 of the Law articulates that parents that violate Article 18 are required to pay “social upbringing fees”. Failing to pay the fees before the deadline results in additional late fees. If one still refuses to pay, then the local family planning administration can appeal to the people’s court to impose punishment on the violators. Obviously, the staff members of the FPO who took away the baby girl broke the law and committed crime.
Where is the girl now? According to the parents, two family planning officers are responsible for the crime. One of them retired, but now has been rehired by the office; he is currently working for the local government in Haihe. With respect to where the girl is, the two officers beat around the bush and gave no relevant answers to the questions.
Chen and his wife went to the local government many times to inquire about their daughter. They promised that they would help the couple to find their daughter that has been missing for 14 years. The couple says that they must find her, and they must hold the local family planning administration accountable for their missing daughter.
ChinaAid was very shocked and distressed as they learned this story. The family planning administration’s robbing people of their children without legal permission constitutes serious crimes. We call on the government of Jiangsu province and the relevant police department and procuratorate to investigate the crime, find the lost girl, and return her to her parents. Meanwhile, the local government officials and the involved family planning officers need to be held accountable for their malfeasance. We will continue to be concerned with this heartbreaking incident.
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