With the Chinese government’s announcement last week that it would modify its decades-old one-child policy and allow couples to have two children, parents of undocumented “black children” are wondering whether the law will apply to them, too.
As an extensive report Monday in Agence France-Presse (AFP) notes, the heihaizi, or “black children,” live entirely outside the state, deprived of birth certificates, any identification, education, or health care. They are the children of mothers who have evaded the gruesome forced abortions and infanticides millions of mothers endured for 36 years.
“There is nothing in China that proves whether I even exist or not,” Li Xue, a heihaizi, tells AFP. She is the second daughter of a mother who was too ill to survive an abortion by the time she found out she had accidentally gotten pregnant. Her parents and elder sister have advocated for her rights, only to be repeatedly beaten by Chinese authorities and denied any chance of registering the younger Li.
The law allows families to register heihaizi to receive the necessary hukou, or government identification, but demand thousands of yuan, far beyond the median annual salary for a household. The fines have net the government two trillion yuan ($316 billion) over the years, according to a 2013 New York Times report.
Children born out of wedlock often become heihaizi even when they are their mother’s first child. To register for a hukou, both parents must make themselves available to prove they have not had children in the past. Women whose partners have abandoned them upon receiving the news that they are to become fathers cannot register their children, and so their firstborns become heihaizis, as well.
Caring for heihaizi is significantly more difficult for the poor than the wealthy, who are more likely able to afford fines. Reports from the mid-2000s suggest many officials are also corruptible, and may provide hukou if sufficiently bribed to second-and-third-born children. Still, studies suggest the problem of multiple children born to the same couple is significantly worse in the country, where having more children to tend to the land is a necessity for many poor farmers. In 2005, Professor Fei-Ling Wang estimated that there could be as many as one heihaizi for every 10 to 15 households in rural areas.
The announcement of a new two-child policy last week did not suggest that the government would change its approach to handling heihaizi or issue hukou to illegally born second children. Parents and human rights activists alike fear the move will do little to change day-t0-day life for parents, parents-to-be, and their children. “Instituting a two-child policy will not end forced abortion, gendercide or family planning regulations in China,” women’s rights activist Reggie Littlejohn told Breitbart News.
An estimated ten million forced abortions have been performed on women in China in the past decade, in some instances on women as far along as seven months pregnant. Many suggest there is a close relationship between the forced sterilization and abortion programs and China’s abnormally high female suicide rate.