A Chinese mother who was given a forced abortion after falling pregnant with her third child has finally been granted refugee status in New Zealand.
The mother – along with her husband, her 19-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son – appealed to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal after their initial decision to grant refugee protection was refused last year.
The family’s story highlights how China’s former one-child policy and current two-child policy continue to leave a painful legacy, and have been responsible for countless abortions in the world’s most populous country.
The pair married in China in 2008, having met in December 2000. The wife already had a daughter from her first marriage.
In April 2010, the mother of two discovered she was pregnant with another child, a boy.
Under Chinese law, the pair had to pay “a large sum of money” for a birth permit to have the second child. He was born in February 2011 and the family paid further money to register him.
After the son’s birth, Government officials regularly visited the couple’s home from 2010 to 2016, demanding the husband and wife write and sign a pledge agreeing to have no more children.
When they refused, the couple revealed, officials would threaten and insult them.
In addition to intimidating visits to the home, the husband’s employer also exerted pressure on him to not have further children. The state-owned company told the husband he had to either agree to have no more children or resign.
When he refused to do either, the company reduced his income to the minimum wage and subjected him to further harassment, which led him to resign.
In December 2015, the wife discovered she was pregnant with a third child. The news was received with “much joy” by the family.
However, Government officials soon found out and visited the family home to demand that the mother of two have an abortion.
Court documents note that officials “pushed and prodded the wife and told her she was a pig for wanting so many children,” causing her to faint.
Shortly afterward, she began to experience heavy bleeding and went to the hospital fearing the worst.
Doctors and nurses treated the couple coldly after they learned it was her third pregnancy. They failed to undertake any scans or other tests to check on the health of the baby or to see if there was a heartbeat.
Instead, the wife was taken into theatre and was told she was having an operation to “remove the remainder of the foetus”.
Due to the trauma of the event, the wife has trouble remembering what happened next but remembers seeing her baby being sucked out a tube and into a drainage pipe during the operation.
She doesn’t know if her baby was alive at the time or had miscarried.
However, neither she or her husband signed any consent forms for the procedure and believe officials directly or indirectly killed their child.
The Tribunal is satisfied that the events at the hospital amount to serious harm in the form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and has resulted in psychological damage for the wife.
It found that the family had a well-founded fear of being persecuted if made to return to China and ruled that as refugees they cannot be deported.
The family can remain in New Zealand for the foreseeable future, but have been unsuccessful in getting pregnant again, since they lost their third child.
Although China’s brutal one-child policy was ended in 2015, it has now been replaced by a similarly draconian two-choice policy and the devastating consequences of forced abortions, sterilizations, abandoned newborns, and Government abductions are still ongoing.
Chinese-born filmmakers Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang exposed some of the consequences of the policy by retelling some of the stories of some of those who lived through it.
Early on in their One Child Nation documentary, which can be viewed on Amazon Prime Video, an 84-year-old midwife revealed she was unsure how many babies she had delivered, but had performed a total of between 50,000 to 60,000 sterilizations and abortions.
“I counted this out of guilt, because I aborted and killed babies,” the midwife, Huaru Yuan, continues. “Many I induced alive and killed. My hands trembled doing it.”
One mother in China told the BBC that she would have liked a second child but was also forced to have an abortion.
She said: “You either go willingly or they come for you.”
Another mother told the BBC, that before the one-child policy was relaxed, she was forced to have an abortion. Speaking of the ordeal she said: “My baby didn’t die immediately… it kept on struggling inside me.
“It broke my heart, the next day it was born still alive… it cried. The doctor said don’t look at it, you’ll have nightmares.”