Woman forced to have abortion in China
01:04 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

The father of the aborted child has disappeared, his sister says

He says his wife was forced to have a late-term abortion

The couple's case caused shock and outrage in China and abroad

The family says it is dissatisfied with the outcome of an official inquiry

Beijing CNN  — 

The family members of a Chinese woman forced to abort her pregnancy at a late stage say they are being harassed by local officials despite an investigation into the case by the authorities.

The woman’s husband, who spoke out about the forced abortion to the news media – generating outrage in China and abroad – has disappeared after attempting to travel to Beijing from the couple’s home in rural Shaanxi Province to draw further attention to the case, his sister said.

The woman, Feng Jianmei, who underwent the procedure on June 2, remains hospitalized weeks later.

Feng, 22, was illegally detained on May 30 in Shaanxi and coerced into having the abortion three days afterward in the seventh month of her pregnancy, her husband, Deng Jiyuan, said earlier this month.

Chinese mother Feng Jianmei after her abortion operation.

“I’m angry and want justice,” Deng, a 29-year-old farmer, told CNN at the time. “They forced her to abort our seven-month-old child – do they deserve to be called Communist Party officials who served the people?”

Accounts of the couple’s experience provoked shock and anger on social media sites, notably as a result of graphic photos taken after the abortion of the bloody fetus on a hospital bed next to Feng. That prompted rare domestic media coverage in China and national debate about one of the country’s most controversial policies: the “one couple, one child” law.

The local authorities responded to the furor by apologizing to the family and announcing an inquiry into the case.

But when Deng tried to go to Beijing on Friday to visit lawyers and appear in a television interview, several men stopped him and assaulted him, his sister Deng Jicai said Wednesday.

Deng Jiyuan has since disappeared, she added, and did not disclose his whereabouts in a brief phone call with her Tuesday. The family is unsure if he’s in hiding or in custody.

Over the weekend, the local government in Zengjia Township, where the family’s village is located, organized a protest against Deng Jiyuan’s family because of his comments to the international news media, his siblings wrote online.

They posted a photo of protesters holding a red banner that read, “Take down the traitors and kick them out of Zengjia Township.” They added that protesters had attacked and wounded one family member who was trying to take photos of the rally.

When reached by phone, officials with Zengjia Township declined to comment on the matter.

The government of Ankang City, which administers Zengjia Township, announced punishments Tuesday for seven local officials as a result of the investigation into the case.

A county family planning official and a township official were fired, while five other low-level Communist Party cadres received administrative demerits or warnings.

“This incident has fully exposed weak awareness of exercising power according to law and the concept of putting people first by some grassroots cadres,” the city said in a statement. “It has caused extremely negative impact and profound lessons should be drawn from it.”

Although admitting that the late-term abortion was illegal, the statement also said that the couple had violated family planning regulations first.

The family expressed disappointment over the outcome of the investigation.

“Of course we’re not satisfied with the result,” Deng Jicai, the husband’s sister, told CNN. “They said nothing about those directly responsible for my sister-in-law’s suffering, nothing about those who beat my brother up, and nothing about those who slashed the tires of a family car.”

She added that Feng remained hospitalized and the official pressure had further depressed her.

On Netease, one of China’s biggest news portals, web users echoed the family’s sentiment about the investigation and suggested the local officials had not been sufficiently punished. But editors closed down the comment section for the story on Wednesday morning.

Deng Jiyuan had told CNN earlier this month that he had been trying to secure a birth permit for the couple’s unborn child up until the last minute. But he said he could not afford to pay the fine of 40,000 yuan ($6,300) demanded by the officials.

The couple married in 2006 and Feng gave birth to a girl in 2007. Under China’s strict family planning law, which limits most married couples to only one child, Feng and Deng are ineligible to have a second child.

The “one child” law was recently thrown into the international spotlight when the prominent human rights activist Chen Guangcheng escaped his house arrest in Shandong Province and moved to New York after a diplomatic tussle between Washington and Beijing.

Chen’s supporters maintain his long-time legal advocacy for victims of forced abortions and sterilizations had led to his persecution by local authorities.

Since the government introduced the policy in the late 1970s to curb population growth in the world’s most populous nation, millions of women have been forced to end their “illegal pregnancies.”

The number of “family planning abortions” peaked in 1983 with 14.37 million operations performed that year, according to the Health Ministry. Since 2000, such abortions have numbered about 7 million a year – with a spike in 2008 to 9.17 million cases.