Death by visitation

"Death by visitation" Continued...

Issue: "Rich man, poor man," May 5, 2007

Her stillborn baby arrived at 6:10 the next morning. She asked to see him before staff took him away. But as hospital staff wrapped him in a trash bag to dump him in a garbage can, a friend of Wei took a look at her baby first. She told Wei the baby's body was "black." The color of heavy bruising comes as the baby's tissues die slowly, turning necrotic. Hearing this unbearable news, Wei said she lost heart and no longer wanted to see her son. The same morning, April 18, officials sent the weakened woman home. Meanwhile, her husband had learned his wife's abortion was part of a mass effort: Women crowded other hospital floors awaiting the same fate.

Recounting the events, Liang remembers one thing: It all happened so suddenly. "We felt so shocked," he said. "We had no choice and no freedom and it's just so painful."

Soon after the mass abortions were completed, staff cleaned and straightened the hospital. If you go there now, Liang said, you will see healthy newborns.

Officials are trying to cover up for the gruesome accounts of meeting population quotas in other ways. In the week following Wei's abortion, they paid several friendly home visits to the couple and brought gifts. They have also tapped Liang's phone as Western media attention over the abortions spreads, and have asked Liang questions about conversations with strangers.

Abuses in the name of population control are becoming harder for the Chinese government to hide. Last year, authorities imprisoned a blind activist-lawyer named Chen Guancheng, who exposed forced sterilizations and abortions occurring in Linyi County, Shangdong province. His sham trial drew worldwide condemnation. Though generally immune to local criticism, Chinese officials watch international opinion more closely and already seem worried that Wei's case might be a similar public-relations disaster.

Several times during WORLD's phone call with Liang, the line inexplicably died. Even as the interview continued with the interruptions, officials were responding. As Wei was about to take the phone from her husband, two officers knocked on the couple's door-another "visit"-likely a calculated interruption. Chinese leaders may watch the couple closely, but now the world is watching China, too.


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