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Chinese Doctor Persecuted Under the One-Child Policy

By Li Fang
Adapted from China Human Rights Biweekly
Created: November 21, 2012 Last Updated: November 22, 2012
Related articles: Opinion » Thinking About China
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Obstetrics doctor Tang Hongrong was sent to a "birth planning prison" after her colleagues framed her for sabotaging birth control policy, where she took pictures of the prisoners. Shown in the picture are two young girls jailed with their father in this prison. (By Tang Hongrong, Courtesy of New Tang Dynasty Television)

Obstetrics doctor Tang Hongrong was sent to a "birth planning prison" after her colleagues framed her for sabotaging birth control policy, where she took pictures of the prisoners. Shown in the picture are two young girls jailed with their father in this prison. (By Tang Hongrong, Courtesy of New Tang Dynasty Television)

I first met obstetrics doctor Tang Hongrong in a Bangkok Refugee Center. The second time I saw her was at a gathering to condemn China’s one-child policy. I learned about her story when she started talking about her daughter.

Tang graduated from Hengyang Medical School in Hunan Province and started working at the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the Gangkou Township Hospital in Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province. None of the other four obstetrics doctors working with her at that hospital had a medical degree. They had all bought the doctors’ positions in the hospital. Later, Tang found out that this phenomenon is common in hospitals in Zhongshan. 

Out of jealousy, these amateur doctors tried to ostracize Tang and make life difficult for her. They made up rumors accusing her of illegally helping patients deliver their second or third babies, thus sabotaging the one-child policy. 

‘Birth Planning Prison’

Between May 1995 and December 1996, Tang was twice taken by the Birth Planning Office and thrown into Birth Planning Prison. She was jailed there for a month the second time. She had never heard of “Birth Planning Prison” before.

Tang said, “The prison is located in the back of the public security bureau’s building. It’s a big yard, separated in the middle. One side is for criminals; the other side is for ‘birth planning offenders’. There are dozens of men and women on this side, including children. A man named Li Zhuoqiu had two daughters with him; one was four or five years old, the other only two years old. They had been jailed for more than half a year. He told me that only when they caught his wife and had her sterilized and his family paid off the fine for having more than one child, can he be released. They also had to pay for all the meals they had in the prison! The fine is as high as tens of thousands yuan. His family was very poor; how could they afford it?

“The youngest prisoner in the birth planning prison was only one year old. Her mom left home to hide while pregnant with her. After giving birth to her, one day when she came home, the birth planning team ambushed her and took her here. I think the little girl was probably the youngest prisoner in the world,” Tang says.

Tang denied the charge of illegally delivering babies and protested strongly. Handcuffs and shackles were put on her wrists and ankles and she was tied up like a ball. The shackles cut her knees and ankles and left scars that are still visible today.

Back then, Tang’s daughter was only 3 years old. Tang’s husband was so worried. He went to see the mayor on “Mayor Open House Day.” The mayor replied to him, “You said your wife was taken and beaten. Is there any proof, such as medical reports, photos?” It was a excuse, but Tang’s husband, an engineer, took the suggestion seriously. He hid a camera in some clothes and gave them to Tang during a prison visit. She took some photos of her wounds and of her fellow prisoners. 

When her husband tried to take the camera back during the next visit, prison guards found it. However, they didn’t take the film out of the camera. Therefore, Tang’s husband was able to keep the photos of the birth planning prison. The head of the prison was furious about it. People broke into Tang’s home and searched several times, but couldn’t find the photos. Then, they took Tang’s husband to the prison, beat and tortured him, and detained him for two days. In the end, Tang’s family paid a sum of money to get him out. Her mother passed out because of shock, and her daughter was crying terribly. 

The Persecution Continues

After Tang was released, the police often arrested her and took her to the local police station for no reason. Tang also lost her position in the hospital. She got it back after she went to Beijing and appealed to the Ministry of Health. 

In 1998, a pregnant woman from Jiangxi Province surnamed Yu asked Tang to help her deliver a baby. The woman was eight months into her pregnancy, and Tang could not say no. “A few years ago, they framed me for delivering babies in private, which I did not. I did it this time, the only time in my life,” Tang said. 

For this, the police arrested Tang and she was sentenced to two years in prison. When she was taken to Shaoguan Prison, her daughter was only five years old, and Tang had to send her to the countryside to have the little girl’s grandmother take care of her. 

Tang was released in 2000. She wanted to publish the pictures taken in the “birth control prisons” and let people all over the world know how evil birth control was in China. She would not dare to do so in China, so she planned to flee the country to release the pictures.

In July 2010, she managed to get passports and visas and took her 17-year-old daughter to Bangkok. They applied for asylum at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). In two months their application was denied. They were shocked, because most people wait for at least a year to hear from the UN Refugee Agency.

The two submitted their refugee application again. On April 18, 2012, Tang’s daughter Zhuzhu went out grocery shopping and did not return. Tang looked for her all night and posted search notices all over the area. In the evening of April 22, a police officer told her that her daughter was at the UN Refugee Agency. She went to the Agency and an official told her, “Your daughter is mentally ill and was sent to a mental hospital for compulsory treatment. You are mentally ill too.” 

Tang could not understand why her daughter was fine on April 18 and became mentally ill four days later. She demanded that the Agency stop the treatment and return her daughter. Nothing happened. 

Tang was grief-stricken and nearly collapsed. She was not even allowed to know the name of the hospital where her daughter was being kept. At the same time, she received the second notice of refusal from the Refugee Agency. Her husband went to Bangkok from China to meet with her. On May 4, the couple picked up their daughter from Ramathibodi Hospital. She looked purple, was severely swollen and was drooling because of the nerve-affecting drugs. After a week’s care at home, she regained consciousness and could talk again. 

Zhuzhu said that while she was at the hospital, an official from the Refugee Agency and another woman urged her many times to go back to China. Zhuzhu was afraid of the Chinese regime, and she did not agree. 

Now the mother and daughter are stranded in Bangkok. They have no income and are surviving on their meager savings from before. They want to apply for asylum again, hoping to be able to live in a safe place free of fear. 

Read the original Chinese article.

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