HANDAN, Hebei, China -- 45-year-old farmer Ai Guangdong ended his life on December 4th to pay for China’s One-Child Policy fines.
Ai, father of five, made around 5,000 yuan ($823) a year mainly by growing corn. When Ai had his second daughter in 2003, family planning authorities charged him 7,000 yuan ($1,153) for violating the One-Child Policy, a sum he was unable to afford. After his third child was born, the penalty jumped to a staggering 60,000 yuan ($9,882).
Recently, local officials confiscated 3.5 tons of corn from Ai—his family’s entire savings. Following a fruitless negotiation with the village Party chief, Ai committed suicide at the chief’s house by drinking pesticide. The town government offered 10,000 yuan ($1,647) as aid and 5,000 yuan ($823) to cover Ai’s funeral costs, but the family did not agree with the conditions. To them, a priceless life was lost under the brutal enforcement of the One-Child Policy.
Ai was not alone in his desperation. In China’s capital Beijing, Liu Fei cries over her One-Child Policy fines every day. Officials charged the 41-year-old warehouse worker 330,000 yuan ($54,350), or 14 times her annual income, for her second child. This “lowest” possible fine, as they called it, prompted Liu to try selling her kidney.
Liu’s 8-year-old son, knowing that her mother is too old for such a transaction, offered to sell his own kidney instead. “My mother wants to sell her kidney,” he went to the Family Planning Commission and said. “I wouldn’t let my mother sell it, so I’ll sell my own kidney.”
The family’s case is now being heard in a court in Beijing. Liu and her lawyer are pessimistic about the outcome.
Indeed, their pessimism is not entirely unjustified. In 2012 alone, 24 provinces in China levied more than 20 billion yuan ($3.3 billion) in fines. Seven provinces and regions have not yet published their numbers, so the reported 20 billion yuan is likely to fall short of the total sum collected. According to a New York Times article, the fines are usually “a multiple of the average annual disposable income in a given region, ranging from three to six times for a second child to as much as 15 times for a fourth.”
Despite their extremely punitive nature, the so-called One-Child Policy “fines” have a rather benign official name: “social support fees.” In 2002, the State Council defined social support fees as money collected “in order to compensate for the government’s public goods spending, adjust the consumption of natural resources, and protect the environment.” Yet the question remains: Were the fees ever spent in this way?
The answer is at best unclear, since none of the provinces has revealed how they spent the money. However, according to a report by state news agency Xinhua earlier this year, 1.6 billion yuan ($263.4 million) of One-Child Policy fines was misappropriated between 2009 and 2012. Due to an apparent lack of supervision, family planning officials would sometimes extract excessive fines without authorization, and then take the surplus for personal use. One of All Girls Allowed’s previous news articles provides a detailed analysis of this issue.
Parents who fail to pay the fines face dire consequences. Liu, mentioned above, could not register her second child for a hukou, the official identification needed for access to education, subsidized health care, employment, and other social benefits. Last month, the story of Li Xue, a 20-year-old girl whose dreams were crushed because she received no hukou, awakened public awareness about the fate of millions of “over-quota” children in China.
For some parents, violating the One-Child Policy can mean much worse than their child’s loss of identity. Liu Laogen and Xia Fengge, a couple from Anxin County in the city of Baoding, had their daughter taken away by the police eleven days after she was born. Since then, they have never given up the hope of finding their missing child. In 2012, 17 years after the daughter’s disappearance, the city finally ordered the county to disclose her whereabouts. County officials simply replied that they did not know where she was. The case is still unsettled as of today.
Chai Ling, Founder of All Girls Allowed—In Jesus’ Name, Simply Love Her, said: “The enormous fines enforced through the ungodly and brutal One-Child Policy not only lead to massive corruption of the family planning officials, but also impose a huge injustice on the poor and vulnerable. The fines, together with the One-Child Policy, must be stopped immediately. Otherwise, God’s justice will come swiftly, as He promised in the Bible:
“My son, if sinful men entice you,
do not give in to them.
If they say, ‘Come along with us;
let’s lie in wait for innocent blood,
let’s ambush some harmless soul;
let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
cast lots with us;
we will all share the loot’—
my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
for their feet rush into evil,
they are swift to shed blood.
How useless to spread a net
where every bird can see it!
These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they ambush only themselves!
Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the life of those who get it. (Proverbs 1:10-19)
“Please join us in prayers for the Chinese families who are facing these hefty fines to receive the peace and comfort from God through Jesus. Jesus once said: ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’ (Mark 9:37). We also pray for repentance of those who has done evil. They, too, can have hope in Jesus: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16) May this Christmas season truly be a new beginning for all!”
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.”