A FATHER whose seven month-old unborn daughter was forcibly aborted by Chinese officials has gone into hiding after his family were branded as "national traitors" for speaking to the foreign media.
Deng Jiyuan, 29, has not been seen by his family since last Sunday, when he was invited for a “talk” with local government officials in Zengjiazhen, Shaanxi province. His younger sister, Deng Jicai, said on Tuesday that he was safe but in hiding.
Mr Deng and his 23-year-old wife, Feng Jianmei, have come under intense pressure from government officials in the past two weeks after a photograph of their dead baby, lying on a plastic sheet next to a distressed Mrs Feng, caused an uproar in China.
Three local government officials have been suspended and are under investigation first for demanding a 40,000 yuan (£4,000) fee from the couple, and then for giving the foetus a lethal injection when the money was not paid.
“Since June 14, different people from different levels of government have been involved, all claiming they are investigating the case,” said Deng Jicai. “Feng Jianmei is still in hospital and they are asking her questions over and over again,” she said.
The family has been trapped inside the Zengjiazhen hospital by officials. “Mr Deng planned to go to Beijing to find Zhang Kai [a Christian human rights lawyer] to represent them, but he was stopped by several dozen police cars and over 100 officials. He was beaten.
Feng Jianmei wanted to go down and see what was going on but she was blocked. They said she was under investigation and could not leave the hospital”.
Mr Zhang said that Mr Deng had not been seen for two days and that beforehand he had been continually followed by agents. The tires of Mr Deng's older sister's car were slashed.
The maelstrom around the couple deepened after a German journalist managed to speak briefly to Mr Deng. Subsequently, banners were hung outside the family’s house accusing them of betraying China by speaking to the foreign media. “Strike the national traitor! Get out of Zengjiazhen,” said one banner.
On Tuesday, Mrs Feng and her six-year-old daughter were still in the hospital while her husband, his father and his two sisters had managed to leave the premises. “I can’t imagine what will happen. But I think further revenge by officials and suppression is very likely,” said Ms Deng.
“The banners put huge pressure on our family. After this incident, who knows what the village will think of us. Maybe people will really think we are traitors,” she added.
Because they lived in the countryside, the couple were entitled to have a second child, but had to go through the bureaucracy of transferring Mrs Feng’s residency from the city to their village.
The local government said officials repeatedly visited the couple’s home to advise them on the process, a claim that has been rebutted by Mrs Deng, who said she had remained with her sister-in-law throughout and had not seen any officials.
Mr Deng, who earns about £300 to £400 a month as a coal miner, said his family had some £7,000 of debt from remodelling their house and could not afford to pay off the government’s demands upfront. He added that the bureaucracy of transferring his wife’s residency had been “really troublesome” and that he had been working on the process but run out of time.
When the local government demanded the fee, he said he had been able to raise £1,800 from friends and family, but officials refused to allow him to split the fee into two payments.
The local government and the county Family Planning bureau did not respond to requests for comment.
*Additional reporting by Valentina Luo