The Chinese baby rescued from a sewage pipe this week has been returned to his mother’s family after police decided he had fallen down the toilet by accident.
The baby’s 22-year-old mother, who did not step forward initially because she was frightened, will not face criminal charges.
The case transfixed the world when images of the baby’s dramatic two-hour rescue from the outflow pipe of a squat toilet in Zhejiang province in eastern China were broadcast on the internet and on TV.
Rescuers were shown removing the pipe from a ceiling immediately below the toilet, then painstakingly using pliers at the local hospital to gently pull apart the pipe, which was just 10 centimetres in diameter.
The incident prompted a large outpouring of charitable donations and messages of support from the public. The little boy has been taken away from a hospital by the family of the unwed mother and a man believed to be the father, who is awaiting the outcome of a paternity test, local officials said. An official in Pujiang county said that if the man is the father, he is ready to discuss with the woman how to support the baby.
The case was originally seen as attempted murder, and police believed the woman had tried to flush the baby down the toilet. However, police were satisfied that the baby had accidentally slipped down the toilet pipe, as she claimed.
The mother later revealed she became pregnant after a brief sexual relationship with the father, and did not want to bring her family shame and loss of face. The ordeal suffered by the infant, named Baby 59 after the incubator in which he was placed, prompted a heated discussion online about the lack of useful sex education in China’s schools.
Unwanted pregnancies have been on the rise because of an increasingly lax attitude toward pre-marital sex in the country. The baby, who weighed 2.8kg, had a low heart rate and minor abrasions on his head and limbs, but was mostly unhurt.
The incident shocked China and led many to express their anger on social networking sites. “What a sin this is! What a poor newborn life! Don’t ever tell him he had such an experience,” wrote Xin de rui la on Sina Weibo. Lao cui wrote: “What the investigation shows is a young girl who got pregnant but who had no money for an abortion or even to go to the hospital. At such a beautiful age, she suffered this painful helpless experience. Whose fault is this? Is it really just a 22 year old girl’s fault?”