Chinese Parents Speak Out About Their Lost Daughter

2013-06-19
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A photo taken 14 years ago shows Chen Jiamin shortly before she was taken by authorities.
A photo taken 14 years ago shows Chen Jiamin shortly before she was taken by authorities.
Photo courtesy of Chen Huaju

The parents of a baby girl taken away by authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu shortly after birth 14 years ago still have no news of her whereabouts, and say she was illegally snatched away.

Tang Haixia and her daughter Chen Jiamin were detained by authorities in Jiangsu's Haihe township in 1998, shortly after the baby's father Chen Huaju was sentenced to a year's imprisonment following a street brawl.

Tang was mistreated under detention in the township's family planning bureau, and the baby was snatched away from her by the bureau's employee Chen Xiang, the family said.

The family has been petitioning for their daughter's return ever since, Chen Huaju said on Wednesday.

"The government has told us not to talk about this online, and then they will do their best to help us find our baby," he said. "Their attitude is to make light of what is a really serious issue."

"They told us that the child of an unmarried couple has no protection in law, and they want to talk to us about 'conditions'," he said.

Chen Xiang, who allegedly took the baby, declined to comment when contacted by RFA.

"I'm sorry, I don't know about this," he said.

However, township women's affairs official Dai Cui, who was present when the baby was taken away, said she had been told a different story at the time.

"The family planning bureau called me up and said that the baby was the child of the mother's boss, but that the boss had absconded," Dai said.

"We took her to the orphanage because no one would recognize the child as theirs," she said. "The family planning bureau's research showed that no one would take the child on."

Social pressures

Unmarried births are still surrounded by social stigma and political pressure in China.

Last month, an unmarried mother who hit global headlines after her baby was found in a sewage pipe following a secret birth in a toilet initially refused to admit that the child was hers.

An official who answered the phone at the Haihe township government offices on Wednesday didn't deny the incident surrounding Chen Jiamin.

"This affair concerns our leaders," the employee said. "I don't know about it. You should ask our leaders."

Calls to the Haihe township family planning bureau went unanswered during office hours on Wednesday, as did calls to the local Dongtai Social Welfare Center, where Chen Jiamin was taken in 1998.

Chen Huaju said he had been willing to take on his paternal responsibilities, however.

"Chen Xiang ... never admitted this, and after that he would avoid me and refuse to speak to me," he said. "And once they had taken her to the orphanage, they wouldn't let us visit her. They said it was the government's rules."

"But under Chinese law, the family planning bureau is supposed to issue a public document whenever they take a child anywhere ... they never produced one," Chen Huaju added.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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