CHINA has been shaken by one of the most horrifying cases of
official infanticide in recent memory after family planners drowned
a healthy baby in front of its parents.
The actions of the officials in the village of Caidian, in the
central Hubei province - carried out as part of China's one-child
policy - caused a public outcry which forced the Hubei government to
pledge that those responsible would be punished, a rarity in such
The baby's mother, identified by Chinese newspapers as Mrs. Liu,
was expecting her fourth child. Couples in the countryside, where 70
per cent of China's people live, often have more than one child
without punishment, despite the policy. But in Mrs. Liu's case she
was forcibly injected with a saline solution to induce labour and
kill the child.
However, the baby was born healthy, to the surprise of family
planning officials who had ordered the injection, which ordinarily
destroys the infant's nervous system.
Immediately after the birth, they ordered the father to kill the
child outside the hospital. He refused to obey but was so scared of
further punishment that he left the crying baby behind in an office
building, where it was found by a doctor shortly afterwards.
The doctor took the baby back to the hospital and reunited it
with its mother. He removed the umbilical cord, administered
vaccinations and then sent the family home.
Five officials were waiting for them in their living room. During
the ensuing argument, the officials grabbed the baby, dragged it out
of the house and drowned it in a paddy field in front of its
Such was the public outcry in Hubei that people in Caidian
contacted newspapers in the nearby metropolis of Wuhan on the
Yangtze River. This led to national media attention which forced the
Hubei government to pledge that it would punish the guilty
Since its implementation in the early 1970s, the one-child policy
has been dogged by allegations that family planning officials force
those who break the rules into having abortions. The policy was
introduced to ensure that China, a land historically beset by flood
and famine, could feed all its people - now exceeding 1.1 billion -
from a mere 7 per cent of the world's arable land.
Last month Zhang Weiqing, Beijing's Family Planning Minister,
said he would not tolerate officials abusing women in order to
achieve birth control targets. He said: "We have a strict
policy. We deal with every violation by officials seriously."
He was responding to media reports that in Nanhai, Guangdong, family
planning officials held pregnant women in detention centres for
violating the one-child policy.
The Government has recently restated its full commitment to the
policy despite the abuses. The official Xinhua news agency
commented: "Without taking effective measures to slow down the
rapid growth of its population, China would have 300 million people
more than the current figure."
A foreign demography expert said: "There are reports of
people who have more than one child being beaten up, ostracised by
the community and their houses demolished, but it is not condoned by
the central government."
The doctor who tended the baby in Caidian said: "How could
they be so cruel? The child could have been looked after in a
children's welfare home. How could they do it?"