Officials Take Woman, Child Hostage

The case highlights abuse of power by family planning authorities.
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A baby looks up at his mother on a street in Beijing, Aug. 25, 2007.
A baby looks up at his mother on a street in Beijing, Aug. 25, 2007.

Chinese family planning officials are holding a local woman and her baby son hostage in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong, demanding 40,000 yuan (U.S.$6,300) in fines from her family after she allegedly exceeded local birth quotas, her husband said.

The incident took place in Shandong's Linyi city, close to where rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been fighting against such abuses, is being held under house arrest.

The authorities detained Wu Donghui last week, according to her husband Liu Zhi, from the city's Xiaolizhuang district.

"Last Friday they managed to lure her into detention through false pretenses," Liu said. "They told me my wife was going to the family planning committee for a check-up, and then they took her away."

Liu said the couple first fell foul of family planning restrictions in August 2010, when they had their second child, exceeding urban birth quotas.

"Our second child, a boy, was born without permission or certification," he said. "But they never contacted us to tell us how we were to pay the fine."

Unsanctioned births under China's draconian population controls usually incur fines and the loss of access to certain welfare services.

"On December 10, I went to Qingdao on a business trip, and they took my wife and child away," Liu said.

He said he had borrowed money from various people to meet the fine demanded by the government.

"I had no other option but to give them the 40,000 yuan," he said. "I told them they would have to release [my wife and child] before I could give them the money."

"All that money was borrowed from other people," Liu said.

Officials mum

Two officials who answered the phone at the Lanshan district neighborhood committee which oversees Liu's neighborhood said they knew nothing of the case.

Calls to the complaints office of the municipal family planning bureau went unanswered during office hours on Thursday.

"What they are doing is definitely illegal," Liu said. "There are seven banned methods on the central government discipline guidelines for family planning work among the people."

"The first item on that list is that they are not allowed to detain, beat or verbally abuse people," he said. "They are in clear breach of national government policy."

The Liu family's plight is similar to many other cases of abuse of power by family planning authorities in Linyi city and neighboring Yinan county which Chen, a self-taught lawyer, helped to expose, advising local women and their families of their rights in law.

He and his team of legal advocates exposed cases of forced abortion and sterilization, as well as financial abuse and physical attacks on families who exceeded birth quotas.

Hollywood actor

This week, Hollywood actor Christian Bale was shoved and chased away by unidentified guards in the latest high-profile attempt to visit Chen, who is held under house arrest together with his wife and young daughter.

Bale's visit to Chen's home village of Dongshigu on Thursday alongside a CNN news crew ended in a gentler manner than many attempts to visit him by Chinese activists, who have been robbed, beaten and abducted by government hired thugs.

Some groups trying to visit Chen even reported being chased by men with guns.

Bale, in China for the premiere of the film The Flowers of War, got away unharmed following a car chase.

Chinese activists have made around 100 attempts to visit Chen, who has been placed under house arrest with his family since ending four years in prison in September 2010.

Following his release, Chen and his wife Yuan Weijing made a daring video, smuggled to the US-based group ChinaAid, in which he said police threatened to beat him or throw him back in jail if he spoke out. Activists say he and Yuan were severely beaten up for the video action.

Chen and his family have been denied access to books, paper, or pens and electronic equipment, as well as being cut off from contact with the outside world. Their young daughter, Chen Kesi, was recently allowed to attend primary school under official escort.

Aside from highlighting forced abortions and sterilizations by local family planning officials, Chen had also spoken up against official harassment and attacks on families who exceed local birth quotas.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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