In China, a daring few challenge one-child limit

By Alexa Olesen

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Dec. 23 2011 10:10 p.m. MST

The number giving birth in Hong Kong reached 40,000 last year, prompting the territory to cap the number of beds in public hospitals they are allowed from 2012. However, parents of kids born abroad face the bureaucratic hurdles of foreigners, having to pay premiums for school and other services.

In the end, Wu also fled, but not as far as Hong Kong. Three months from her due date, she kissed her baby daughter goodbye, telling her she was going on vacation, and hopped an early morning train to nearby Hangzhou. There she switched to another train bound for Shanghai, hoping the roundabout route would throw off anyone trying to tail her.

In Shanghai, Wu used a friend's ID to rent a one-room apartment with shared bathroom and kitchen. It was tiny and not cheap for her, 700 yuan a month (US$107), but it was across from a hospital that allowed her to register without a government-issued birth permission slip and it had an Internet connection.

Wu had never used email, so her husband — the real one — set up a password-protected online journal that he titled "yixiaobb," or 'one tiny baby.' She posted to the journal up to nine times a day, describing where she was living without ever revealing her exact location. She prefaced every entry with a capital M for mother, and added a number to mark how many messages she wrote in a day. Using the same journal, her husband wrote to her, coding his messages with an F.

It felt like an invisible tether linking Wu to her husband. He didn't know where she was, but knew she was OK. Shortly before her due date, she asked him to come to Shanghai, and he was present for the birth of their son.

More than two years later, she and her former husband, the father to both her children, have yet to remarry — hoping it will legally shield him from any future punishment.

The marriage with her cousin was easily dissolved after they discovered it was never valid, because marriages between first cousins is illegal in China.

Wu was fired from her job as a public school teacher because of the baby and her ex-husband, who is also a teacher, was demoted to a freelance position at his school. Though told she has been assessed a 120,740 yuan ($18,575) social compensation fee, Wu has refused to pay.

Enforcers of the family planning limits showed up at their house in July, and again in November, threatening legal action. Wu is afraid their property might be confiscated or that she or husband might end up in detention, but she doesn't want to pay the fine because she doesn't believe she's done anything wrong.

"I don't think I've committed any crime," she said. "A crime is something that hurts other people or society or that infringes on other people's rights. I don't think having a baby is any kind of crime."

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