Thursday, March 29, 2007

Child Abandonment From the Inside IV

Last week's article on the abandonment of a little girl in a temple provoked strong reactions from readers. Many refused to believe the veracity of the story, believing it was fabricated or had been written a long time ago. Many found it difficult to understand the reactions of the temple workers, which resulted in the death of the baby girl through neglect.

These articles have been chosen from many different accounts because they each describe a prevalent belief or cultural attribute of China. We might find them hard to read, and even harder to believe, but as I wrote in the comment to last week's article, they confirm many similar experiences I have personally had -- attitudes displayed to abandoned children, reactions by orphanage staff, bureaucrats, the police, and others involved directly or indirectly in infant abandonment. These stories are simply not unique in any way.

Although this week's story has a happy ending, the careful reader will detect how many times the story could have ended tragically. If not for the intervention of the "Zhiyin" magazine and their tenactious reporter, any one of many administrative roadblocks would have ended the quest. Even the words of the orphanage director, a person whose job it is to find loving homes for the children in her care, ring false and cynical when she is approached by the "press".

At their roots, most abandonment stories are based in selfishness and self-interest. Whether it is a single woman seeking to avoid the consequences of her pregnancy, or a married couple seeking to please grand-parents or themselves with a "lucky" boy, most stories are avoidable. One class of stories, however, is the opposite. Given China's lack of affordable healthcare for its poorest citizens, the following story illustrates the quandary some parents are placed in when their child is born with a special need, or becomes sick. These stories are heart-breaking.

As I stated in a comment to last week's essay, there are never happy stories when it comes to abandonment in China. With this week's essay, I make a small exception.


On October 17, 2003, our periodical (“Zhi Yin” [Bosom Friends]) received a letter from Jiang Jiaxue in Huangchuang, Henan. He asked us to do him a favor. The letter contained 18 pages, and told us a story about their unfortunate life experience. They begged us sincerely to inquire about a seriously ill baby named Jiang Ruyi who has been separated from them for already half a year. They didn’t know where he was or whether he was fine or not. Jiang Jinxue said that his wife He Hongli had been missing her son so badly that she shed tears every day and is always at a loss. She had been diagnosed with having borderline psychosis and the situation was getting worse. Jiang Jinxue also had been thinking of his son and suffering guilt for him. At work, he made mistakes from time to time and thus hurt himself, resulting in his becoming handicapped. He even contemplated creating a car accident, so that he could win the compensation from the insurance company. With the money, his wife may finally find their son whom both of them were desperate for.

Our reporters began to make a thorough investigation as soon as they saw the letter and started searching for the baby for the anxious couple.

This family, miserable indeed, happened to have another unfortunate life.

Jiang Jinxue, aged 33, got married with He Hongli two years his younger, in 1993. Later they gave birth to a daughter named Qianqian. According to China’s Family Planning policy, they could have another baby after Qianqian reached five years of age.

In May 2002, He Hongli got pregnant again. This surprise brought the couple much happiness. They were expecting the coming of the child. In early August, He Hongli suddenly fell down from a fainting spell. Jiang Jinxue sent her to the hospital in town for a physical. The result came out that He Hongli had serious anemia. She was so weak that the doctors told her not to bring the baby to term, since otherwise both the mother and the baby would be in danger. A few days later, He Hongli, accompanied by her husband, went to the hospital for an Induced Abortion.

He Hongli felt uncomfortable after the surgery. One month later, she unexpectedly had heavy vaginal bleeding, and Jiang Jinxue rushed her to the People’s Hospital in Huangchang town. After giving an examination, the doctor found that the baby inside He Hongli’s womb was still there and alive. However, the doctor suggested she have another thorough abortion, because after the previous curettage, the fetus had been damaged and probably would be born deformed. The couple was in a dilemma. They adored this strong little life and did not want to deprive him of his life again.

Finally after much mental struggle, the kind-heated He Hongli decided to bear the baby. She told her husband that even if the baby were born a fool; she would be willing to take care of him for his whole life. Knowing that his wife was determined, he did not go against it.

On January 28, 2003, the baby was finally going to come into the world after the hard gestation. He Hongli was so weak that she had to undergo a cesarean delivery. During the surgery, He Hongli had excessive bleeding and her life was in danger. When separated from his mother, the baby’s face had already turned purple from labored breathing. The doctors made an emergency rescue of both the mother and the baby.

When Jiang Jin was told by the hospital that his wife and son were in danger, he thought that they were unlikely to survive. However, after two hours of emergency rescue, the mother and the baby came back to life again.

The baby was a boy, weighing no more than 2 kg. He was so weak that the doctors put him into an incubator. The baby received more than 20 days of intensive care there and was not allowed to be taken back home by his parents until it was made sure that he was not going to be at life risk again. The baby looked very handsome, smart and lively; nothing like a crippled child, which was a big relief for the couple.

Jiang Jinxue and his wife named the baby “Ruyi” which means “good will”. They wished their baby would be safe and well for his whole life, meanwhile bringing good luck to his family. But due to the weakness of his body, little Ruyi became ill from time to time.

One month after being discharged from the hospital, the couple found that their son had a hernia. Worse still, it existed in both of the testicles which is rare. After only a few days, the testicles swelled to be as big as two balloons. Little Ruyi had been good before that, but then he almost lost his voice from crying. His parents sent him to the hospital in town immediately. There the doctor said that the situation was not very positive and that surgery had to be done immediately, otherwise the baby would die. However, the hospital was not well equipped to do the special surgery for this small and weak of a baby. Thus they suggested the baby should be sent to the People’s Hospital for treatment.

On February 28, [2003], the couple hired a car and brought their son to the People’s Hospital in Xinyang city. By then the baby’s situation was rather serious. The doctors there made two emergency rescues for the baby. They thought a surgery for the baby at that moment would bring danger for the baby, so decided it better to observe him first. But in the evening on March 30th, the hospital had emergency information for the couple and told them the baby was in a really bad situation, and that he should be transmitted to a certain large specialty hospital in Wuhan. For the time being, little Ruyi’s eyes were barely seen for his head had swollen very big.

In the morning of March 31, little Ruyi was staying in the newborn surgery area of a certain large specialty hospital in Wuhan. The hospital checked little Ruyi and diagnosed that his small intestines were stuck in the hernial hole, and part of them had died due the length of time without blood flow. They said a surgery was needed, but warned that the baby very weak, so the parents should be prepared for the possibility that the surgery may fail.

At the same time, the hospital urged the couple to keep current in payments for all of the treatment expenses.

About 20,000 yuan had been spent from the day the baby was born. When they came to Wuhan, they had to pay 2,000 yuan for the “Pledge of Hospitalization”(a security deposit). Jiang Jinxue and his wife searched their pockets and only had 400 yuan to hand in. Then they used the remaining change to made phonecalls to their relatives and friends at home. They begged Jiang Jinxue’s elder brother to bring them the money the next day in the early morning. His brother had not been friendly to Jiang Jinxue for he was in big debt. “I can bring you the money, but let’s make it clear that you should pay me the traveling expenses,” he said unhappily to Jiang Jinxue.

The couple expected that little Ruyi’s uncle would arrive in the evening. Being afraid that he may not find them in the large hospital, they stood in front of the hospital all night long. As dawn arrived, the brother still did not show up.

Without money, the surgery for little Ruyi had to be delayed. He Hongli was extremely anxious. Her husband could only turn to Doctor Yu, the doctor in charge. Doctor Yu told the hospital administration about their situation and the hospital made an exception to do the surgery first. Doctor Yu also borrowed 100 yuan for the father to go back home.

The next morning (April 1), the surgery for little Wuxia began as expected. Despite a few difficulties in the surgery,it turned out better than what the doctors had thought. He Hongli had been waiting outside the operating room for more than 4 hours. When she learned that the surgery was a successful one, she finally sank down to the ground.

Though the surgery was successful, the frail baby was not out of the woods yet. He was still receiving 24-hour monitoring in the intensive care room. Anytime a problem might happen to him. All kinds of treatment expenses were charged, adding up to more than 3000 yuan for one day, which was a huge burden to the couple. Later in the evening, Jiang Jinxue borrowed more than 4,000 yuan at home and rushed back to the hospital. But by that time, the couple owed the hospital more than 8,000 yuan. His wife had been repeatedly asked to pay the money by the hospital. Jiang Jinxue went to the baby ward to see his baby son and touched his small face gently. Staying with him for no more than half an hour, he hurried home again to try collecting more money.

On the way, Jiang Jinxue thought it over and over and decided that his elder brother was the one that he could turn to. When he arrived back home, he begged his brother to loan him several thousand yuan from the Credit Cooperative, but his brother turned him down again. Achieving nothing, Jiang Jinxue went back to the hospital on April 2nd.

The hospital had been urging the couple to pay the treatment expenses immediately. They said if the money was not paid soon, they would stop giving medicine to the baby. He Hongli was so worried that she cried hard and kept asking her husband, “What are we going to do?” Hardly having slept for several days, Jiang Jinxue felt exhausted and did not know what to do.

The baby was still in critical condition and the consequences would be too ghastly to contemplate if the medicine was not served any more. They just couldn’t sit there and wait for the baby to die. Jiang Jinxue was so distressed that he wanted to jump out of the window of the hospital building. Suddenly, an idea came to his mind—why not go away first and leave the baby in the hospital? This is the place of saving lives, afterall. Even without the parents to pay the money, they wouldn’t just stop treating his son and watch him die! We can leave our baby here in the hospital for some time and when we earn enough money after working outside together, we can come back and retrieve our baby.

However, he soon abandoned the idea, because doing so was against one’s conscience. Thinking hard on it for almost half a day, he finally had to accept the previous idea, for there was no other way out. Making up his mind, he pulled his wife aside and told her what he was intending to do. “What if the hospital sends our baby to someone else?”He Hongli asked. “It may not be a bad idea if that happens. Anyway, it’s better than to die for a lack of money!”the husband replied. He Hongli thought it over and over and had to agree her husband’s idea was a good one.

At 9 o’clock in the evening of April 2, Jiang Jinxue and He Hongli went to see their baby son for the last time in the intensive care unit. The baby opened his eyes and looked at them. Then he smiled to his parents. He Hongli could not help but burst into tears, kissing her baby son again and again Later, they slide away from the hospital and got on the train in the Hankou railway station heading back home. After making the decision, He Hongli regretted it several times and her husband, despite feeling he was unwilling to do so, pulled her back each time she wanted to go back to the hospital.

A week later, on April 10, Jiang Jinxue and his wife, He Hongli, went to Henglin town in Changzhou Wujin city, Jiangsu province. Both of them started to work in a factory by the recommendation of He Hongli’s cousin, Mr. Wei. In order to earn as much money as possible, the couple worked fourteen to fifteen hours a day without feeling tired. When everything was settled down the following June, Jiang Jinxue wrote to Doctor Yu, the head doctor, twice expressing his sorry for the hospital and promising he would definitely pay what he had owed the hospital. He asked the hospital to take good care of his baby. However, he did not receive any information back from the hospital.

Realizing that writing letters was not going to work, Jian Jinxue plucked up his spirit and called 114 (China’s Information) to check the phone number of the hospital. He felt too ashamed to talk to the hospital personally, so he asked Mr. Wei to call the newborn surgery unit of the hospital to inquire after his son’s location. Everyone who answered the phone said they knew nothing about the boy and Doctor Yu couldn’t be found either until in late August Even he could not recall anything about the boy. After Mr. Wei told him what had happened, he said “You lost the baby in April and you just start to look for him now? You are lucky that the hospital hasn’t sued you for abandoning the baby. You ask the parents to come to the hospital in person and look for the baby themselves.”

Jiang Jinxue and his wife could not believe what had happened. According to the known information they had, their baby was not in the hospital any more. Thoughts filled their minds: Where could he be? Little Ruyi was then in dangerous situation. How could he survive? It’s apparent that it’s wrong to leave the baby in the hospital and slide away. The couple started to be badly haunted and tortured by guilt and regret.

A few days later, when Jiang Jinxue was working but lacked concentration, he had half of one of his fingers cut off by a spinning machine. This injury resulted in his being permanently disabled. His wife, He Hongli shed tears every day. At 3 o’clock in the morning on September 17, He Hongli sat up of bed suddenly and said happily to her husband, “Look, Ruyi is smiling to me! He is smiling to me!”Jiang Jinxue stopped her immediately and comforted her to calm down. Later, he brought his wife to the hospital in town to see the doctor, and knew that she had a slight psychiatric disorder. It would become serious if she couldn’t get rid of the worry and guilt.

Where little Ruyi was and whether he was fine or not remain a misery to the couple. They would not feel at ease until the misery was resolved. No matter what, Jiang Jinxue had made up his mind to look for little Ruyi in Wuhan, but knowing he lacked the money to pay the hospital, he hesitated. Later, he even wanted to create a car accident and use his life to get compensation from the insurance company. He thought that his wife might use the money to go back to Wuhan and look for their son, but he couldn’t just leave his wife and baby this way.

On September 28, Jiang Jinxue read the magazine “Zhi Yin”and he thought that since it was a good magazine with high social responsibilities, he would write a letter to the magazine for help.

Zhi Yin Magazine’s Activity — Helping the couple to find their baby son

Each baby is a new life with dignity and blessing. To care about a little baby or a small life shows one’s social responsibility for a single person, a group of people, and the whole country. Aiming at promoting humanism, our magazine paid great attention to this. Reading the letter, we also worried tremendously about little Ruyi. We were anxious to know whether this poor baby was still alive or not? Where had he gone?

After some difficulties, our reporter found out the phone number of the surgery department of the hospital. They learned from the phone calls that the situation was exactly as Jiang Jinxue had written in the letter— everybody who picked up the phone knew nothing about the case. Could the baby have died already? Or was it because the hospital wanted to block the information of the baby? Our reporter was at a loss.

Did the hospital do nothing and watch the baby die? If so, can the parents sue the hospital? Our reporter called Luqin, a lawyer in Changhao Law Office in Henan Province. Luqin explain that the relationship between the hospital and the patient is contracted. That is, the patients pay the money and the hospital provides them the treatment service in return. The couple left their baby in the hospital, which meant that such a contracted relationship had ceased. The hospital can stop the treatment for little Ruyi, even though this is against humanism. They don’t bear any legal liability. Nevertheless, the fact that Jiang Jinxue and his wife abandoned their baby maybe against the law. Hanging off the phone, our reporter had little hope to see little Ruyi alive.

On the morning of October 25, our reporter arrived at the ward in the hospital, which was full of people. All the crew members came and went in like a blast. Our reporter asked a dozen people, and all they said was “I don’t know.” Doctor Yu was said to be on a business trip and wouldn’t be back until more than 10 days later. Finally we got Director Wu, leader in the administrative office. He told us that the hospital had strict rules regarding interviews. Before we could have an interview, we should first contact the Publicity Department, and then get the permission of the President office.

Our reporter worked the whole day, yet nothing was achieved. In the end, our reporter rushed to the reception desk of the ward and asked for a hospitalization expense list for little Ruyi. The list showed that the treatment expenses for little Ruyi totaled 13,300 yuan. The last day he stayed in the hospital was April 18. That is to say, after his parents ran away, the hospital continued to treat the baby for 16 additional days. This meant the baby was probably alive. But the question is—where had he gone after being discharged?

On October 26, our reporter returned to the hospital and learned that once the hospital finds an abandoned baby, the Security Department would take charge of it, and then they would call “110” to take away the baby. The child would then be taken to the police station in charge of the area. Our reporter asked Mr. Zhou in the Security Department to help check the records around April 18. The result showed that there was a baby boy sent somewhere on April 17.

In the afternoon that day, our reporter rushed to the welfare institute. After telling the person in charge, Ms. Zeng, about our intentions, we asked her to do us a favor and check the records for information on abandoned babies. She refused to do so. The welfare institute insisted that we should go to the relevant police station and asked for a police report first, proving that they did send a baby to the welfare institute.

Having many difficulties, our reporter finally got the report from the police station in charge of the area on Dec 28, and it proved that the police did send a baby to the welfare institute on April 17. The baby was described exactly the same as little Ruyi. Our reporter finally confirmed that the poor little Ruyi was still alive.

The truth came out in the end. Our reporter called Jiang Jinxue and his wife and told them to go to Wuhan. In the meantime, our reporter warned them that when they arrived in Wuhan, they might be arrested by the police if the welfare institute decided to sue them. “I am ready for that. I don’t care even I would stay behind bar for several years, because when I get out of there, I can work hard to make up for the years that I’ve missed. I believe that through my hard work, I can give my wife and child a happy home.”

On October 29, Jiang Jinxue and his wife hurried to Wuhan and came to the welfare institute along with our reporter. When Ms. Zeng saw the parents, she told us that the welfare institute did receive such a baby. She also described how little Ruyi was treated in the hospital. When the hospital found that the parents had slipped away, they continued to treat the seriously ill baby in the intensive care for as long as half a year. Then they called “110” and sent the baby to the welfare institute. Little Ruyi was not completely well and received additional special care for 3 months in the hospital inside the welfare institute until he recovered. The baby was so small that the welfare institute hired some experienced foster mother to take care of him. In fact, there came families from everywhere in the county asking to adopt the baby. A couple even offered to donate 200,000 yuan to the welfare institute to adopt the little Ruyi. However, the welfare institute thought that his parents might come to look for him, so they turned down everyone’s request for the baby’s own good. All the expenses for treating the baby paid by the welfare institute had amounted to more than 12,000 yuan.

In the end, Ms. Zeng criticized the couple, saying that the welfare institute had never encountered such a case. Usually they would report the case to the police station. Jiang Jinxue said sincerely that“I never expected that the hospital, the welfare institute and “Zhiyin” magazine would help us so much to look for a baby they scarcely knew about. I am ashamed that as a father, I abandoned him. You can tell the police and I am willing be take the responsibility for this stupid mistake I’ve made.” Ms. Zeng smiled and said “Forget about it. You were in a hard situation. Since there were no bad consequences, and since the reporter from “Zhiyin” worked so hard to help you look for the baby, we won’t report it to the police. You just take good care of this baby from now on.”

Our reporter couldn’t wait to see little Ruyi and wondered what does he look like 10 months later? Ms. Zeng put forth that to adopt the baby, a family should repay the money that the welfare institute had spent on keeping the baby. Additionally, there was another 5,000 yuan needed as pecuniary punishment. Thus, in all, they needed to pay more than 17,000 yuan.

Our reporter and the couple were stunned. Having no choice, they made contact with the vice-president of the Welfare Institute. He said that “Zhiyin” is a magazine that we like very much. Since you’ve paid so much attention to this case, we would like to cooperate and make another decision according to the specific situation.”

On November 3, our reporter and the couple came back to the Welfare Institute and finally had the problem solved. The institute decided to make this case a special one, and asked the couple for only 2,000 yuan.

Little Ruyi was brought over by his foster mother. To everyone’s surprise, having gone through all these difficulties, the little baby had grown up strong and became very cute and healthy. He laughed and moveed his hands and feet in his foster mother’s arms as we played with him. When taken from his foster mother by He Hongli, little Ruyi was not afraid of her and eager to get into her mother’s embrace. Being out of words to express his gratitude, Jiang Jinxue pulled his wife and kneeled down before everybody.

On November 4, as Jiang Jinxue was leaving with his wife, he said that though he was lucky to have his son back, he would never forget that he once left his son and abandoned him. He would feel guilty and ashamed for his whole life. Meanwhile, he promised again that though he is out of money now, he would go out to work with his wife and pay back the hospital no matter how hard it was.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Child Abandonment From the Inside III

The Temple and the Abandoned Baby

It is obvious, of course, that the children adopted from China's orphanages are those that were reported and brought to the orphanage by members of the surrounding community. But not every child found makes it to the orphanage. An unknown number die before they can be safe-harbored with a family, or the orphanage.

I read the following story many times, trying to decide if I should publish it. It is heart-breaking to read. I feel both anger and pity for the players involved, and my heart breaks for the small child. But I have encountered the attitudes and ideas portrayed by this story many times, and feel it brings understanding to the vast cultural differences between many in China and ourselves.

I don't want the reader to conclude that these attitudes are universal, but they are wide-spread and even common. This story occurs frequently enough, in one form or another, to be informative.


Temples are solitude in the common people’s eyes. Every old yellow gate seems to prevent all the worldly worries from getting inside the temples.

On the morning this Sunday, it was so cold that every breath turned into fog immediately. The monk students came out of the gate to find that there was a baby girl lying on the floor. Her face had turned red because of the cold weather. She lay crying hard to the sky. A brave person picked up the baby and went inside. He put her in front of the King Palace, right before the fat laughing Buddha.

It was September 20th in lunar calendar which is October 19th in solar calendar.

All the monks surrounded the baby who was laid on the bluestone floor and crying all the time. I watched the baby’s little fat face and her crying mouth, thinking that she might have a wet diaper. Then I opened the baby’s wrapping cloth and found that there was a red envelope ,which had 20 RMB in it, and another piece of paper with words on it, stating: “Born on Sep. 2nd in lunar calendar.” She was only 18 days old.

A half bag of dried whole milk powder, which was not especially for babies, was tied to the baby’s wrist. There were other things too, including a milk bottle filled with milk, a clean diaper which was in fact a piece of rag, and a small sweater bound around the baby with a cord. That is all that was with the baby, nothing else. Apparently, the baby’s mother was very poor.

I exchanged the baby’s diaper for a new one and examined her belly button. She was very healthy. Her little bright eyes stared at me and sucked the cloth with her mouth. I looked at her and adored her for no reason. Then I knew I was going to take care of her. Out of impulse, I rushed to the magnetic phone and called the temple where my monk tutor was. He was the director of the Buddhist Association and busy out ata meeting then. So the driver, Mr. Sun, answered my phone.

Before I had finished telling what had happened to him, Mr. Sun yelled “Please leave that baby alone. Now the family plan is implemented everywhere. If the temple is going to adopt the baby girl, then all the extra babies will be sent to the temple. What’s more, the people working in the Family Planning Office searched the temple yesterday.” I was stunned and felt confused. What had the Family Planing to do with the temple? And then Mr. Sun shouted at me again, “You’d better not be so kind hearted. No one can take care of such an issue. Leave the baby where it was. Just don’t send her to the temple. That’s kind enough.” I hung up and was unable to move. It’s a life. Can it be treated badly just because it’s abandoned?

The abandoned baby was held by several nuns to keep warm in their room. These nuns are all grandmothers of their own grandchildren. They came here to be nuns for unknown reasons. Though they are old, they have just lately begun to shave their heads. The abandoned baby was lying on the bed with one of the nuns and was hungrily drinking the milk.

An old nun who has no teeth left pointed to the baby and said: “This is the bean milk that the man who is keeping the King Palace brought to the baby. You see, she has a good appetite, doesn’t she”? “Bean milk? Isn’t there a half bag of milk powder”? I asked. “That man said that bean milk has more nutrition than milk powder,” answered the nun. How ridiculous it is. The nun was going to argue with me. Seeing the happy face that the baby girl had when she was drinking the bean milk, I gave up defending myself with this old nun who just shaved her head and couldn’t speak clearly. In the evening, I went to the old nun’s room to see the baby girl and told them again that the baby girl should be sent to the orphanage. I had a bad feeling this time. I could not turn my eyes off the abandoned baby and repeated that she should be taken good care of. When I was about to leave, there came a senior secular who submitted to Buddhist discipline while still wearing her hair. She appeared very smart and capable. Her husband has retired and teaches at the temple. Our teacher’s wife went along with her husband and is working in the temple now, being the attendant of the service department here. She holds Buddhist sutras every day. Though she came here for the Buddhist discipline, she cared for everything and gave her opinions as she wanted. Thus, in order to avoid a confrontation with her, I didn’t say anything more and left the abandoned baby girl and went back to my room.

In the early morning the next day, after finishing the courses, I went to see the baby girl. The old nun stood in front of the door, and said to me smilingly, “Someone came from outside and took the baby girl.” “Was it the welfare institute”? I asked. She replied “If it’s the welfare, we have to pay 400 RMB for the baby’s living expenses per month. This time the person asked for no money”. Then I felt worried. “What on earth is that guy? How come the welfare institute would charge money for keeping an abandoned baby? You must have misunderstood.” “It’s true that the welfare institute charges money. Last year when they took away another abandoned baby, I saw the abbot give them some money. Now it’s better this time. That guy asked for no money.” I asked again, “Where did the guy come from?” “They were very nice to send a car to take the baby.” She had few teeth in her mouth and it’s really hard to understand what she had said. “Who told that guy?” “It was the teacher’s wife. She is very capable. Soon after she promised to ask someone to adopt the baby, she made a phone call and then came the guy immediately. She is really capable.” Watching the nun, I knew that she could not tell give any useful information. According to my limited experience, I guessed that that guy must have come from the welfare institute. The nun might not know it. So I thought that the baby girl must have been in the welfare institute. Before I fell to sleep, I was thinking that someday when the baby girl has grown up, I would take her as my disciple.”

The weather in the north is variable. A few days later, a cold current approached. The monk students all put on their winter clothes. The maple leaves in the temple were hit by the frost and fell to the floor. I was busy with my courses during these few days and almost forgot the baby girl who was abandoned by her mother. Days went as usual. Visitors came and went. Smart sparrows had their nest built on the roof beam of the Jade Buddhist Palace and fed their children there.

One day at noon, my monk tutor and Mr. Sun, the driver, came to the Buddhist College. A truck came along with them, and it was full of juice drinks which were put in some boxes. They were for the monk students. When waiting for the abbot, they were chatting with each other. I was busy washing an apple for my tutor. Suddenly, I heard them say that a baby died. It caused my attention. “Why did you say that a baby died? What is it about?” Then the room became silent. Mr. Sun said, “It was the abandoned baby girl who you called and asked to send back last time.” I felt shocked. “Wasn’t she sent to the welfare institute? Why was she still in the temple?”

My heart broke. Mr. Sun continued, “There is no welfare institute in such a small town. Someone here called the monk tutor saying that the Buddhist College wanted us to take the baby away. Our tutor is the senior director of the association. He would definitely do the favor for the Buddhist College. So I drove here early that morning and took the baby away. I gave her to the tutor and he even praised that the baby was so cute. He couldn’t decide whether to keep it or not, so he asked the two old nuns who do the cooking in the temple to take care of the baby. The baby was put on the bed and no one kept an eye on her. A few days later, she died.” I got angry. “How come she died a few days later? I checked the baby and she was healthy. Was she suffocated by the quilt?” “There was no quilt. It was just a small piece of rag. She couldn’t have suffocated”. I raised my voice, “Did anybody send her to the hospital immediately? What was the cause of her death?” “When the old nun held the baby later, she was already dead. The nun was shaking and crying. She was about to send the baby to the hospital. But when I got there and touched the baby, I knew it was too late, so we didn’t send her to the hospital. Honestly, I am already the father of two children. I have some experience. The baby must have died from the cold.”

“She was just a few days old and needed to be kept warm by somebody. The old nun had her own business. She did not have time to feed her or change the diaper for her, causing her to stay wet. And there was no quilt. She was meant to die. The major reason was because she was an abandoned baby. Who would like to take care of her?” I asked, “Why not send her to the welfare institute? Why would you take her? Weren’t you afraid of the search by the Family Planning?” Mr. Sun lowed down his head and said a moment later, “The tutor is the director of the association. We have to respect him. I did tell the tutor not to keep the baby, but the tutor praised that the baby girl was cute, and she would grow up to be a beautiful lady if she was to be brought up by the nuns. So she stayed. After the baby died, the nuns only kept crying. It’s me who is so smart to send the baby to the mountain behind the temple. I bought her a small coffin which cost me 10 RMB, and then 20 RMB more to have her buried. In the evening, the temple prayed for the baby for free and gave her a memorial tablet writing ‘Nameless Baby.’ We’ve done what we could”.

The tutor was eating the apple and appeared kindly.

I could not say a word and had tears rolling down.

Coming to the Buddhist College, I had longed to learn the Buddhist doctrine in order to save the misery of people in this world. I was active in the class and recited the lection by heart. I gave speeches passionately! I was ambitious and full of hope. Every day I was ready to graduate from the Buddhist College and begin my salvation through charity to people in the miserable world. Every time I came into someone, “Amitabha Buddha” is what I said.

Poor baby girl! How many good deeds have you done to come into this world. Unfortunately, you chose the wrong mother, a woman who just abandoned you. Worse still, you were born in the wrong time, even the temple, which was supposed to be your best chance, but that could not save your life. This is what you’ve gone through.—been to this world for little more than 20 days. You died so quickly. Maybe you had done something wrong in your last life, and this life you had to pay back. Hope that you, a nameless baby, learn under the ground what had happened to you, and don’t come to this world once again.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Child Abandonment From the Inside II

In the five years I have been researching the abandonment stories of over 4,000 children, certain common themes have become discernable. Issues of superstition, commonality of finding location characteristics, birth family circumstances and beliefs, all seem to tie many abandonment stories together into common experience. I hope that these stories, published by news outlets within China, will give the reader a greater sense of "being there", and allow us as observers from afar to feel the emotions that must be involved in the abandonments of many, if not all, of our individual children.


Half past eight in the morning, there were crowds of busy passengers in the Changyun Nanchang Long Distance Bus Station, Jiangxi Province. None of the people noticed that there was a little baby placed on the bench in the corner.

All of a sudden, the baby cried out and drew the attention of the people around. They found that the sound came from a baby on the bench who was wrapped by a small piece of quilt. However, no one around seemed to be his (or her) parent, and only a nursing bottle was near by.

People who were waiting there came up and somebody said that it must be someone careless that left the baby here. Another said that it must be an abandoned baby. One person touched the nursing bottle and found that it was already cold, and then he went to fetch some milk for the baby.

A crew member working at the bus station got the bottle heated at once, and then she took the baby into her arms and fed her. The hungry baby had some of the milk and fell asleep, not crying any more.

Someone among the surrounding people saw a note in the quilt. It read “Hope some kind person take care of this baby girl. She was born at two in the morning, Jan. 28th, 2007. I can’t raise her by myself. If there is a chance, I wish we can meet ten years from now at Bayi Bridge, White Cat area.

After that, the crew member working at the bus station called 110 (China's 911) and sent the baby to the Nanchang Social Welfare Institute.

No money for the treatment, father abandoned his daughter, becoming the first person that was arrested by abandoning baby in Chengjing city

The first person that was arrested by abandoning baby in Chengjing city

At eight in the evening, Apr. 1st, 2006, Ms. Wang and her husband brought their son to see the doctor in Beijing Children’s Hospital, located at Litu Road south of the West Town district, Beijing City. Their boy was diagnosed as having an inflammation of the tonsils and received a fluid infusion on the second floor of the hospital. When the parents were waiting for their child to finish the fluid infusion, a man who was in his thirties, not very tall, and seemingly not a local came up to Ms. Wang with a baby in his arms. He frowned and said to Ms. Wang anxiously “Hi, would you please hold the baby for me for a while? I am going to look for her mother. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Ms. Wang, who was worried about her son, ignored what the man had said. However, the man put the baby into her arms unexpectedly and turned around. When walking away, he repeated that he’d be back in a minute.

Ms. Wang replied consciously, “You have to be quick!”

During her waiting for the man, Ms. Wang did not leave the hallway for a second.

“While waiting for him, many thoughts came to my mind, but I am willing to think of people from a bright side. I believed that the father of the baby must be delayed by something”.

More than two hours had passed and it was almost ten at night. Ms. Wang’s child had finished his fluid infusion and he stayed with his mother waiting for that man. Time passed away gradually and the man did not come back again. Having no choice, Ms. Wang dialed “110”.

About ten at night, Apr. 1st, 2006, after receiving Ms. Wang’s call, the police of YueTan Police Station in West Town district in Beijing, rushed to the Children’s Hospital. It was then deep at night and the baby was kept in the hospital for treatment because he was ill.

Happen to meet the baby’s father

The next morning, Ms. Wang took her child to the hospital for the fluid infusion again. After that, her child wanted to have KFC, and so Ms. Wang brought him to the KFC that was near the Children’s Hospital. When they came out of it, a dramatic scene just happened. The man that put the baby to her the day before turned up right in front of the restaurant.

Ms. Wang recognized the man immediately. She could not give any reaction at first and the man seemed to recognize her as well. He went backwards a little and wanted to say something with his mouth open.

There was a woman besides the man. She looked like his wife. Ms. Wang thought that they came to look for their baby, so she told them that after two hours’ waiting without seeing them come back, she called the police and the baby was sent to the police station.

Hearing where the baby was, the couple went to the YueTan Police Station along with Ms. Wang.

According to what Zhou Bohai, police officer in the YueTan Police Station, said, this middle-aged man who was called Zhubo (a fake name) came from Jilin. His wife was Henanese. Both of them came to Beijing for work. They are living in a small house that is rented near the Haidian district. Zhubo is a chef with a salary of only 1200 RMB. His wife used to be a waitress and now she is out of work, taking care of her daughter who is only half-year old at home.

Apr. 1st, 2006, Zhubo and his wife took their daughter to the Children’s Hospital to see the doctor.

Zhubo told the police that it had been hard for his daughter to breathe and her lip had turned purple. Then his daughter was diagnosed as having congenital heart disease and lung fever as well. The hospital suggested that she should be treated immediately. However, the treatment expense was 100,000 RMB. Zhubo and his wife carried their daughter back home with tears. “The baby’s uncle also had congenital heart disease. It is hereditary. We have no choice. If she lives with us, the baby must die someday.” Zhubo told the police.

Having no other way, Zhubo and his wife took the extreme and abandoned the baby in the Children’s Hospital.

Receive the punishment in custody

Zhubo and his wife told the police in the police station that after abandoning their daughter, they felt very guilty, and they came back to the hospital the next day. However, they couldn’t see their daughter after searching all rooms. Later they even came to the backyard of the hospital. “It’s lucky that we ran into that kind-hearted women and learned that our baby is fine,” they said.

Then, in the company of the police, Zhubo’s wife came to the Children’s hospital and saw their daughter. Right at that moment, she burst into tears and kept saying “I’m sorry. I’m sorry…”

In the meantime, Zhubo was brought to the West Town custody house.

Article 45 and article 21 in the “Punishments on Management of Public Security” which was implemented on Mar. 1st, 2006, stipulated separately that: Abandoning one that has no independent ability can receive no more than 5 days in custody or warning; one that is pregnant or feeding the baby which is less than one year old violates the management of public security ought to be kept in administrative custody as well, but can be exempted from it.

The police in charge said that according to the provisions of the “Punishments on Management of Public Security”, Zhubo and his wife should receive 3 days of administrative custody. Considering that Zhubo’s wife is still feeding the baby, they decided that she can be exempted from it. Zhubo thus became the first person the bureau dealt with that was kept in administrative custody for abandoning baby.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Child Abandonment From the Inside

Over the next few weeks, Research-China.Org will be publishing a series of articles recounting interviews with birth parents who abandoned their children, and the Chinese individuals that found them. These articles will hopefully allow us to gain some insight into the motives and reactions of these individuals. These interviews were obtained by Chinese reporters, and represent a new trend in Chinese media -- the publication of the stories of the abandoning birth parents.

For years, the Chinese newspapers have reported foundling stories -- a child found here, an interview of a finder there. But only very recently have the birth families themselves become part of the picture. The recent Dutch interview of a birth family in Chongqing Municipality is one such example. The article below is another. Perhaps control of these stories is loosening in order to show others the guilt and social displeasure that occurs when a child is abandoned in order to dissuade families from taking this step.

A word about birth parent interviews in general. One must realize that taking a "top down" approach to researching birth parents does not provide data from which we can extrapolate to the general population. For example, I walk into a village and publicized that I am searching for birth parents. I find 50 birth parents that are willing to be interviewed by me, and in the course of the interview the vast majority of them confess that they wish they had never abandoned their child. Since it appears possible, if not likely, that birth parents that feel guilt would be the ones who would step forward, my "top-down" approach has resulted in a sampling that possibly over-represents the "guilt factor" among the general birth-parents population. Perhaps there are many birth parents who felt no guilt, and these did not seek to be interviewed.

In order for birth parent interviews to be a valid demographic tool, they need to be obtained from a "bottom-up" process. For example, taking all of the children abandoned in a certain geographical area, and drawing a random sample. If one could then locate the birth parents for those children, one would have a statistically valid study, from which conclusions could be drawn. Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible in today's environment.

The following interviews are an attempt at a "bottom-up" approach, but are obviously not scientific. We can draw broad conclusions from them, but we must remember that every birth-parent's story is unique, and thus we must avoid reading too much into these interviews. They are, nevertheless, very interesting.


Two pairs of newly born girl twins are abandoned within two months

The Maternal and Child Care Service Centre in Guangzhou’s Baiyun district have received five abandoned babies which are all premature

Xinkuai News, Jan. 30th— On Christmas day in 2006, the silence of the Maternal & Child Care Service Centre in Guangzhou’s Baiyun district was broken by babies’ crying. Two premature girl twins were just born here and sent to incubation immediately by the nurses. To everyone’s surprise, the parents of the girl twins disappeared and never showed up again.

Our reporter knows from the Maternal & Child Care Service Centre in Guangzhou’s Baiyun district that it has received five abandoned babies, including two pairs of girl twins and a baby boy. In Guangzhou, these five abandoned babies are just a shadow of society. Estimated by the civil administration, there are 1,300 orphans living in the Social Welfare Institute in Guangzhou. Some of them are not real orphans, but abandoned by their parents.

Abandoning one’s own child, according to some lawyers, has violated the criminal law, item 261, which is called the “Offense of Abandonment”. The maximum punishment can be five years behind bars. Actually, regardless of the restriction and punishment by law, we all understand that what these children suffer can last for their whole lives. Professor ShenJiahong, juvenile psychology expert in Baiyun Psychology Hospital, states that “parents play the key role during the process of their children’s growing up. No one else can replace them.”

Case One
Children being saved in the hospital, parents disappeared without trace

At 6:00 am Christmas day 2006, two premature girl twins were sent to the incubation unit of the Maternal & Child Care Service Centre in Guangzhou’s Baiyun district. The mother of the babies, Ms. Wu, was sent to the delivery room at 3:00 am. Three hours later, she gave birth to two baby girls, both of which were over two kg. However, one of the babies had a little problem with her lungs; the other girl was totally fine. At noon, the parents of the babies said that they were going to see their children, but in fact, sneaked away without paying the hospital.

Our reporter saw the twin sisters who were sound asleep in the baby nursing room. The creases of the newly born baby had disappeared and the faces were tender and ruby. Both of them even smiled from time to time in their dreams. The nurses told our reporter that the two sisters are very healthy and both have good appetites as well.

Besides the careful nursing, the hospital had paid more than 35000 RMB of treatment expense for these two sisters. Before they are sent to the welfare institute, the expense are expected to increase.

Case Two
The father went away with an excuse after the success of the emergency treatment

Another case in point also just happened. On the early morning of Nov. 12th, 2006, the emergency car of the same hospital received a pair of girl twins from the People’s Hospital in Guilong town, Baiyun district. One of the sisters had to be rescued with the need of a breathing machine for she had a lung disease. The parents of the children are Anhuiness. The mother just gave birth to the two sisters and did not go with them to the hospital. The father, who looked anxious, asked the staff of the hospital to do what they could to rescue his daughters and he did not care how much it would cost.

The situation was urgent and the sick baby was sent to the emergency room without any procedures. After the rescue, both of the sisters were kept in stable condition. Next, they were weighed at 1.3 kilogram and 1.4 kilogram separately, and then sent to the incubation unit. They will be discharged once they reach 2 kilogram. Knowing that the children were fine, the father stated that he wanted to go back to fetch money for the charge of his children’s staying in hospital, but he disappeared without a trace.

Case Three
Poor baby boy was abandoned, claimed to be not the child of the father

Staying with the above twins, there is another baby boy in the baby nursing room. Last Dec. 17th, a mother whose name is Wuhong (a fake name), 20 years old, gave birth to a baby boy in advance, because she was sick of many diseases. The baby was born fine except that he weighed no more than 2 kilogram. The father sneaked away on the following day.

“That girl looked no more than 20 years old, and the man who sent her here didn’t look like her husband. Later the mother could not be found. That man told us that it’s not that he cannot raise the child. It’s that the mother was with several men before she got pregnant. He did not believe the baby was his,” President Yang in the hospital said.

Additionally, President Yang told us that the hospital has dealt with twelve such cases of abandoned children in 2006. According to their counting of all the cases that happened in the hospital, including older stories, these abandoned babies’ parents were farmers from other provinces. Most of the babies are girls and a few of them are born deformed.

Opinions from all parties

The father in "Case Two" gives an interview
“We want a healthy baby”

On the afternoon of January 5th, the reporter contacted Lu, the father of the twin girls described above. He honestly expressed his thoughts about abandoning his own babies:

Reporter: How precious it is to have a pair of twins. How could you just abandon them?

Lu: I didn’t mean to abandon them. It’s just that both of them are premature and one of them has a lung problem. I was afraid that I couldn’t bring them up.

Reporter: They are your own babies. Aren’t you missing them?

Lu: After all, they are my daughters. It’s impossible that I don’t miss them. I ask my friends to check them out for me every few days. I heard that one of the babies is not going to survive.

Reporter: When I was with them in the hospital, both of them look healthy. They should be discharged soon.

Lu: Premature babies aren’t going to be healthy even when they can grow up. Besides, the younger sister has the lung problem. One of my friends said that in this case, even if it can be cured, it often recurs later. She probably won’t live for three years. I am afraid that she is meant to die after I pay so much for the treatment.

Reporter: Is the financial condition in your family so poor?

Lu: I am responsible for a project now and I am preparing to buy an apartment here in Guangzhou. I can pay more than ten thousand RMB for their treatment at present. It won’t be a problem at all. If the money can cure them completely, I am willing to pay, but they are premature, only weighing about 2 kilogram. Plus they are so weak and it is worse that the younger sister is sick. It’s unlikely that they will grow up like other healthy babies. It’s said that twins should be raised in couple. If one of them died, the other will not survive.

Reporter: If they were not healthy, won’t you take care of them?

Lu: I still will show them my care in other ways. Probably I will ask my friends to visit them for me and give them some assistance in life, but I will not claim to be their father.

Reporter: Do you still have other children?

Lu: My present wife is my second one. My ex-wife died a few years ago due to her poor health after giving birth to my son who is now three years old. These two sisters are the first babies of my present wife and me. If we keep them, we cannot have other babies. So if we want to have a healthy baby, we have to abandon them.

Civil Administration Department

Hard to supervise and prevent abandoning baby

President Yang in the Maternal and Child Care Service Centre in Guangzhou’s Baiyun district said that they used to search for the parents of those abandoned babies according to the contact information that they wrote down when registering to stay in hospital. However, it’s very hard to find them since they are all working people from other provinces and they do not have steady residences. They even shut their cell phones down once they left the hospital. According to Lawyer Gong in the Oriental Kunlun Lawyer’s office, what these parents did has violated the criminal law, item 261, which is called the “Offense of Abandonment”. The maximum punishment can be five year behind bars. It would be more serious if the abandoned babies were twins. About such issue, Ding Dongfeng, director of the Social Welfare Bureau in the Guangzhou Civil Administration Department, pointed out that, from the government’s point of view and within the social moral range, we advocate that parents should assume the responsibility and obligation for their babies no matter they are born deformed or not, and regardless of the sex. For this, the government has been enhancing the sense of responsibility of the parents who have just given birth to babies. However, director Ding added that, if the parents can’t be found in the end, the city’s social welfare institutes will surely receive the babies and take good care of them.

Also, director Ding told all the civilians and units that once they find abandoned babies, they should call the police first. All the parents of the abandoned babies that the social institutes have received cannot be identified by the Public Security Department, thus it’s very hard to supervise and prevent such events at its source.

Being abandoned would affect the babies for their whole lives

It’s reported that the orphans and abandoned babies that are living in Guangzhou Social Welfare Institute are about 1300. The Welfare Institute just has 800 beds, so some of the abandoned babies have to be raised in other welfare institutes. Director Ding Dongfeng said that the Social Welfare Institute can assure the children who are normal, mentally and physically, that they can receive the education that other normal children have, including going to elementary school, junior and senior school, even college. Abandoned babies that are seriously deformed the Social Welfare Institute will also take care of for their whole lives.

However, Professor Shen Jiahong, juvenile psychology expert in Baiyun psychology hospital, has his opinion that being abandoned and ignored will do irreparable harm to the babies which can last their whole lives, and impose great hidden danger to the society security. “Parents play the key role during the process of their children’s growing up. No one else can replace them. Abandoned by their parents, the children find it hard to have friendly relationships with people around them and form good habits. No matter if he or she was born being optimistic or introversive, the pain of being abandoned probably would not be smoothed away.

Compared with children that are brought up in normal families, the abandoned babies are easy to have a mental illness called “Syndrome of Being Lake of Mother’s Love”. They have weaker capacity for difficulties that they encounter during their lives. Also they have no sense of security for people and society. If they were not treated well during the process of their growing up, they may have hatred to society and take revenge with destructive acts.

Ms. Xiao Cunyu, a researcher in China writing organization who has been engaging in the research of the juveniles with problems in the Juvenile Reformatory, told our reporter that seven out of ten Juveniles with problems in the Juvenile Reformatory lacked parental love ever since they were born. In fact, it’s not just the children; the parents who have abandoned them will also suffer and feel guilty in the rest of their lives.

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