According to its website, China Central Television, the ubiquitous official broadcaster in China, is “the important organ for news and opinion in China.” It is also “an important mouthpiece for the Party, the government, and the people.” Finally, it is “an important battlefront for China’s ideology and culture.”
But now Chinese netizens are asking one another: if CCTV is so patriotic, just why are some of its top news anchors traveling to the United States to give birth to their children? Babies born in America automatically become citizens, and the opportunistic use of this fact by well-to-do official broadcasters has many people in China seeing red.
The matter was brought to light recently by the case of Dong Qing. The 41-year-old, known as the “No. 1 Sister of CCTV,” earlier this month disappeared abruptly from a show she hosted, after being a regular presence on CCTV for over 12 years. She explained her absence in interviews with Chinese media by saying that she was going to be a visiting scholar at the University of Southern California.
Staff at CCTV, however, revealed that the real reason for her trip was actually to give birth to her baby, according to Tencent, a popular news portal.
“She absolutely didn’t quit her job, but is just on a pregnancy vacation,” said Mr. Liu, of CCTV’s Channel 3, in an interview with Tencent.
Dong’s decision follows that of the other well-known CCTV host Chai Jing, who last month returned to China from the United States with a newborn baby girl. Chai is a popular TV host, journalist, and author, so her decision aroused consternation and hot discussion online.
Many called both of the women’s actions unpatriotic, while others said they understood their motivations: not only will the children automatically become U.S. citizens, but the parents will avoid fines for violating China’s one-child policy.
Ordinary wealthy Chinese, not just television personalities, have also engaged in “birth tourism.”
Saipan, a small U.S. island in the western Pacific, a four-hour flight from China, has become a popular place for Chinese mothers to give birth, according to ABC News.
Over 70 percent of the babies born in Saipan are born to Chinese, with newborn babies by Chinese mothers rocketing from 8 in 2009 to 282 in 2012, the report said.
Ma Xu, director of a research center at the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said that apart from avoiding fines and gaining a foreign nationality for the child, it is often also cheaper to give birth elsewhere.
This January, the well-known Chinese film director Zhang Yimou was fined $1.23 million for having two more children than he was supposed to. It was the heaviest fine levied in the history of one-child policy, because of Zhang and his wife’s income.
Poor families in China that can’t afford fines for their additional children have, in contrast, been forced to abort their children—or given forcible abortions, to the outrage of the public when the incidents become known.
The most famous case was that of Gong Qifeng, a mother who in 2011 was injected with labor-inducing drugs while family planning officials pinned her head, arms, and legs to a hospital bed. She was seven months pregnant with her second boy. The trauma of the experience led her to develop schizophrenia, according to subsequent reports.