China's Hidden Children

IMAGE: BBC

 

SHANDONG, China -- Three-year-old Zhang Rundong lives in the small village of Beigaoli in Shandong province. From the outside, there is no indication that this little boy is any different from other children his age. However, there is one key detail that sets Rundong apart from his peers: he does not exist.

 

Because Zhang Rundong is the second child born to his parents, Chinese Family Planning Officials deemed him “over-quota” and subsequently denied him the right to a legal identity. As punishment for having a second child, the Chinese government withheld Rundong’s identity papers from his parents, his key to medical care, education, and a normal life.

 

From his conception, Rundong’s existence has brought conflicting measures of joy and fear to his parents. When Rundong’s mother discovered she was pregnant due to failure in her birth control, she immediately felt “scared” because, for her, having a second child is illegal and punishable by the government. Mrs. Zhang also admitted, almost apologetically, that she “was a little bit happy too,” so she resolved to hide her pregnancy to prevent her fellow villagers from forcing her to abort the child. The boy was born in secrecy and three years later, instead of blissfully enjoying Rundong’s childhood, Mr. and Mrs. Zhang are struggling under the weight of their son’s legal challenges and a $10,000 fine.

 

This is the reality for hundreds of thousands of families across China who are robbed of the joy of parenting multiple children because Chinese Family Planning Officials have labeled their babies as unwanted, illegitimate, and “over-quota”.  An estimated 13 million “over-quota” children live in China today and the Chinese government denies them identity papers and refuses to acknowledge their legal existence. A crucial component of these identity papers is the hukou housing registration which, among other things, permits citizens to attend school, travel within the country, and receive medical care. Additionally, the penalty for bringing these children into the world usually includes a crippling fine that is often impossible to pay. Hopeless to pay off their debt, some Chinese parents resort to selling their own organs, or even committing suicide.

 

The Zhang’s predicament illustrates the legal and financial injustices the Chinese Family Planning Officials inflict on those who violate the One-Child Policy, but there is one more element to the Zhangs punishment that is even more appalling than these. The Zhangs claim that in addition to paying their fines, village officials insist that Mrs. Zhang also be sterilized. This is a way to ensure that she never violates the One-Child Policy again.

 

Forcibly altering a woman’s body directly defies her rights as a valuable human created in the image of God, yet every year thousands of mothers undergo these forced sterilizations. Not only are these procedures inhumane, they are often dangerous and can have traumatic repercussions for the mothers.  The combination of fines, Rundong’s legal situation, and the threat of sterilization puts immeasurable stress on the Zhang family. 

 

While the consequences for violating the One-Child Policy are brutal for parents, they are equally devastating for the children themselves. These “over-quota” children grow up knowing that they will always be different from their “legal” peers.  A CNN video documenting the Zhang family’s plight shows Rundong’s older brother furiously scribbling down words in his schoolbooks while Rundong stands to the side, delicately fingering pages of the books that will never legally be his. Rundong did not choose to be born. He did not choose to be his parent’s second child. He was not warned that his entrance into the world would cause his family so many difficulties.  Nevertheless, Rundong has to bear the burden of always being the “different” one and watching his older brother enjoy the rights he cannot have.

 

Stories like Rundong’s are common in China. In November, All Girls Allowed featured a story about a 20-year-old “over-quota” woman who, despite her sharp brain and love of learning, cannot receive an education. Earlier in 2013, a sixteen-year-old girl in the same situation drank pesticide in an attempt to end her life after she learned that she could not attend college. These tragedies must stop.

 

Impossible fines, refusal of basic privileges, and forced sterilization are all injustices Chinese families face simply because they refuse to kill their children.  Parenthood is a beautiful process, but for so many parents in China it is marked by fear and despair. China desperately needs to feel the perfect, whole love of Jesus, who values all his children equally and without limitations. Children are not a burden or an inconvenience and should never be treated as such. Psalm 127:4 compares children to “arrows in a warrior’s hands,” indicating that they are valuable and important in the eyes of God.

 

Pray for the authorities in China to change their devaluing perceptions of life and pray for encouragement for the brave families who refuse to give into this destructive mindset.

 

All Girls Allowed (http://www.allgirlsallowed.org) was founded by Chai Ling in 2010 with a mission to display the love of Jesus by restoring life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China and revealing the injustice of the One-Child Policy.  “In Jesus’ Name, Simply Love Her.”




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