China, Baby 59, and national self-deception

The mother deserves space, sympathy and a second-chance. The state deserves scrutiny

Share
Related Topics

You can learn a lot about a country from the lies it tells. Britain - desperate to keep its ‘green and pleasant’ label - tried to deny the presence of brain-rotting BSE in cow populations during the late 1990s. America - blinded by flag-waving ‘freedom’ - pretends to this day that selling a gun to anyone with $150 isn’t in fact a form of bondage, one that keeps the nation in a perpetual state of low anxiety.

You won’t find a more painful example of a country (or parts of it) pulling the wool over its own eyes, however, than a story that emerged this week. China has stopped to follow the fate of Baby 59 – a newborn boy let fall down the toilet by its mother, then rescued mewling from a sewage pipe by passers-by. At first, officials said the case would be treated as attempted murder. That decision appears to have been reversed. The mother, officials now claim, dropped the child “by accident” – and after it recovers the 6lb. 2oz boy will be reunited with its traumatised but essentially innocent parent.

Scepticism is hard to push aside here. To insiders, China’s national lie runs something like this – that authoritarian policies pursued by its Communist government, lashing the dragon economy ever onward, do not bring with them a considerable tonnage of human suffering, alongside the manna of GDP growth.

Say it were true a baby like this one was dropped, and not by accident. History suggests that once the story broke, the authorities’ response would be an immediate muddying of the waters – lest the world assume that a Chinese citizen, who had committed a first illegal act by having a child out of wedlock, was pushed to commit a second through fear of repercussion, with the second being an offence against human conscience.

The one-child-per-family policy was introduced in 1979, to restrain China's already 1bn-plus population. Since then parents have needed permission from the Communist Party to have a baby. In order to get that, they need to provide the state with a marriage certificate. Minus these two things, it becomes very difficult for a child to acquire a resident’s permit, a document needed to attend school. As Sky News’ Lisa Holland put it, these add up to mean “China has very few single mothers”.

We know that Baby 59’s mother was single. She is 22. According to recent reports, the young woman only kept the child because, without the absent father's financial assistance, she could not afford an abortion. Any which way you approach this story – except from the miraculous conclusion – it looks like a travesty. The mother deserves space, sympathy and a second-chance.

The state, on the other hand, deserves scrutiny. It is not the case that China’s authorities ignore baby-dumping: the Ministry of Civil Affairs has established a number of welfare hospitals around the country explicitly to cater for abandoned children. But anybody who remembers The Dying Rooms (1995), a British documentary about China’s overstocked orphanages, will know from what depths the country has to rise: “I did not know human beings could treat children with such cruelty”, said its producer, Kate Blewett. “Some of the orphanages we visited were more like death camps”.

Education, openness and a softer touch are the only things that can help here. Flushing the problem away simply will not.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Co-Ordinator / Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: These leading independent prope...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Representative - South West England

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest manufacturer of UPV...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Supervisor

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well establis...

Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer / Helpdesk Engineer

£16500 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued growth an exce...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Karen Danczuk is married to anti-child sex abuse campaigner Simon Danczuk MP  

The less said about the Danczuks the better – but try and stop them

Grace Dent
 

Budget 2015: George Osborne should earn his reputation for courage by abolishing free TV licences for the over 75s

Christopher Bland
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy