Exclusive: Chinese mother tells of fear during forced abortion

Feng Jianmei in her hospital bed Photo:

It took us ten hours to drive from the nearest airport through the misty hills of Shanxi province to reach Zhenping, a small town along the banks of a wide shallow river. There's a famous Chinese saying - "the mountains are high and the Emperor is far away" - usually used to explain why some dreadful act has happened far from Beijing and central control.

In a small rural hospital surrounded by high mountains, Feng Jianmei was held down and injected with drugs to unduce labour. She was seven months pregnant, a long way from any law that might have protected her, or her baby.

Today for the first time she spoke on camera to us.

I'm still scared when I think back. Four people pressed me down ... I didn't even think about pain ... I lost my baby ... I try my best not to think about it. After the injection it took 30 hours to take effect ... I didn't have any family with me, lots of other people were watching me.

– Feng Jianmei

She spoke quietly and nervously - she was still clearly traumatised yet agreed to speak to us.

Today, a month later, Feng Jianmei is still in the same hospital room where the forced abortion was carried out. While we filmed, her first daughter aged six was sleeping next to her, on the bed where the baby sister she will never see died.

The local authorities had texted the 22-year-old and her husband demanding the equivalent of £4,000, a fine for having a second child, but they couldn't pay. So they couldn't have the baby. They came to her house and took her to the hospital. This was a brutal interpretation of local population targets and China's one child policy.

School children perform during the flag raising ceremony at the Olympic Village in Beijing, China

Photos of her lying beside the body of her baby, taken by her relatives, circulated widely on the internet, inciting anger around the world.

For the first time, China's state media has covered the issue. After all, it is difficult to keep the horrific ordeal quiet when hundreds of millions of Chinese 'netizens' are talking about their shock and horror at what they saw. Yet again the power of the internet and Chinese social media giving millions a voice.

Feng's husband, Deng Yuan, starting speaking to the media. This sparked a demonstration with people parading through the small town with banners reading "Beat the traitors, drive them out". They were referring to Deng and his wife. Not only did they lose their child in appalling circumstances but now they were being accused of treachery for trying to get public support for their plight.

So Deng went into hiding, emerging yesterday in Bejing, after a five-day journey. He has been meeting a lawyer, trying to launch a case for compensation and for those who aborted his child to face criminal charges.

Street market vendors in Qingdao - only the rich can afford the fines to have more than one child Credit: David Jones/PA

Some legal observers are saying this is a turning point for China's one child policy. They say the shocking images and details of Feng's ordeal will force a rethink. The policy has reduced China's 1.3 billion population by about 400 million since it was introduced in the 1980s, according to official figures. Some argue that the policy has pulled millions of children out of poverty.

There has been a remarkably open debate in the state media about the policy following the Feng case. In some rural areas couples are allowed two children, and of course if you can pay the fine then you can have more than one child. However, the policy leads to huge numbers of voluntary abortions and so-called 'black children' whose births are not registered. They will never have access to schools or public services such as a pension.

The rich often fly to Hong Kong or the US to give birth, getting away from the policy and getting a foreign passport as a bonus.

A young Chinese mother in Guangzhou's Taihe Hospital where she said she was forced into an abortion by family planning officials Credit: REUTERS/James Pomfret

Last autumn, I watched the birth of a baby at a hospital in Southern China - about an hour later I was interviewing the mother and asking her if she minded that she would only be allowed one child. She and her husband supported the policy they said, it was good for China.

Today, as we made our way back to Beijing we passed road signs urging people to boost the economy with family planning.

Forced abortions are often the result of over-zealous government officials, perhaps afraid of exceeding local population targets.

Central government in China outlaws forced abortions and, under pressure, the local government has sacked two family planning officials and disciplined others.

They lose their jobs, Feng Jianmei loses her child.

  • See Angus Walker's interview with Feng Jianmei on the News at Ten, on ITV1 at 10pm.