Based on the cover story of Caixin Century magazine’s May 9th issue.
Yang Libing always bring the photo of his first born daughter Yang Ling with him through his years of searching for her. She would be 7 years old by now.
10 months after born, Yang Ling was taken away by officials from local one child policy office. The reason was that the family didn’t pay "social raising fee". Yang had never saw his daughter again.
One day in 2009, Yang and his wife Cao Zhimei was shown a photo of a little girl. Yang knew the moment he looked at the photo that this is his daughter. The photo was taken in the US. Yang’s baby girl is now some American parents’ sweet heart.
Yang Libing’s daughter was born on July 29th, 2004. He named his first daughter Yang Ling, a common girl’s name just like Jennifer or Lily. Yang and his wife stayed with their daughter for 6 months and then left their rural home in Hunan and went to the southern metropolitan Shenzhen to work. Their daughter Yang Ling stayed with her grandparents at home. Parents work in the city and the grandparents take care of the child at home. That’s very typical for immigrant workers in China.
One day in 2005 while calling home in Shenzhen, Yang learned the shocking news, his daughter was taken away by local officials. Yang rushed from Shenzhen to home but it was too late. How can they take away my only child? Yang figured the reason would be that since both the parents are working and left the child with the grandparents, the one child policy
office thought this girl was adopted. Family who adopted child should pay "social raising fee", which gave them an excuse to take the girl away.
Yang’s father remembered that day. It was April 29th, 2005. Around 10 people from local one child policy office came to their house. Yang’s mother saw them from the window and immediately went away with the child to hide. They hid in the pig farm. After searching, the officials found the child in the pig farm and took her away because "social raising fee" was
Yang’s father went with them but the officials demanded 6000 yuan to release the girl. Yang’s father only raised 4000 at that moment. On the next day the officials said they won’t release the child even if Yang’s father gave the 10,000 yuan. When Yang came back home from Shenzhen his daughter was already transferred to the city welfare center. Information said for every child sent to the welfare center, an official would receive 1,000 yuan or more. And for every child adopted by a foreign family the welfare center would receive 3,000 US dollar. Before being "sold" aboard, these children would be announced as orphan by local government. This is a legal business.
Yang Ling was not alone. Child taking was phenomenon in Gaoping. Gao ping is a poor rural village located in the mountain area of Hunan province in Southwestern China. Behind this phenomenon were not just economic interest but also political one. One child policy was made a national policy in 1982. To implement it Hunan province linked the implementation of the policy with the local officials’ career like what many other provinces did. If their were people violating the one child policy in the local administrative area, the local administrator would not receive promotion and many other benefits for a year. This way of implementation worked but it got worse and worse. Before 1997 the slogan was the local officials would just "tear down the house" or "take the parent away" if a family had more than one children.
But after 2000 they would "take your child away". Maybe that’s when the officials discover the business of exporting children.
A Chinese in the US, Ye, found out about Yang’s story and helped to find the girl that is very likely to be Yang Ling, Yang’s long lost daughter. Ye didn’t take any further action except making sure the girl was adopted and informing Yang. Ye said the little girl is living a happy life with her American parents and her adopted parents loved her very much. I am sure Yang
loved her daughter very much too. But he was just a farmer in rural China. His lifetime saving won’t be enough for a air ticket to the US that seemed impossibly far far away.
(illustration by Brain Chang)