Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 1:27pm
Patrick Boehler [email protected]
Mother Xia Fengge outside the Gaobeidian People’s Court on Monday. Screenshot via Sina Weibo.
Eleven days after the third child of a farmer couple, a daughter, was born in the summer of 1995 in Quantou township, she was taken away from her parents by local cadres. The couple had violated China’s one-child policy and never saw their daughter again.
Liu Laogen and Xia Fengge have not given up on finding their daughter, and have petitioned and sued the local government. Their case was heard in a court in the central Chinese province of Hebei on Monday.
Their lawyer Lin Feng, working pro-bono, said he expected the court’s decision to come soon. It will come at a time of reform, just one month after the Communist Party leadership announced arelaxation of the one-child policy at the Central Committee’s third plenum.
It also comes at a time when China’s highest judges in the Supreme People’s Court have spoken out repeatedly in favour of making the country’s justice system more just. Courts are still subject to the decisions of local-level governments and are often more bound by local orders and sometimes personal ties than to the law.
Liu and Xia’s fate has a been very different from another family with three children, renowned filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who was only approached by family planners when public pressure mounted after a media exposé showed him having at least three children in May.
The farmer couple had tried in vain in 2003 to seek information on their daughter’s whereabouts from Anxin County, where their township is located, but the case was struck down in court, said Lin.
Half a decade later, the State Council passed regulations on government transparency which allowed citizens to request any information that did not interfere with national security, public safety, economic safety or social stability.
The couple reapplied for information from the municipal administration in Baoding, which oversees Anxin County and their township. In December last year, the city ordered the county to release information on the daughter’s whereabouts. The county replied that it didn’t know where she was.
Liu and Xia sued the county for not fulfiling its obligation, demanding an explanation and compensation amounting to 1.6 million yuan (HK$2.02 million).
A court in Gaobeidian, a city an hour’s drive north from Baoding, heard the case on Monday. Mainland media outlets, most prominently theLegal Evening News, have made the case known nationally.
Lin said he was optimistic about a decision by the court, but the law was only one of three reasons for his optimism. “The media have become interested in the case, bringing public pressure,” he said. “I’m also optimistic about the judge, because the city government is supporting us.
“There is no reason for the judge to rule against the city.”