The recent BBC article
I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in the country of your birth. To be with your parents and yet not exist.
But there is now a generation of children who are exactly that, they do not exist in the country that they were conceived, born and live in.
I may think that I’ve experienced problems as a culturally displaced person – but my challenges, pale into insignificance, compared to what these children face. A non-life, an existence that is not acknowledged by the state.
What is going to happen to this generation of children? Will the younger ones find their way onto the adoption black market? Will increasing numbers of children be abandoned?
How can you live without access to essential services, such as education and healthcare? Can you exist in a society where identity is literally the key to accessing the essentials in life? Those things that I take for granted.
The rise of “unauthorised” orphanages in China is not going to slow down and as this 2013 article explains, receives silent sanction from the Chinese state until things go wrong as they did in June 2013 in Henan province. A fire at an “illegal orphanage’ took the young lives of six boys.
I may bemoan my upbringing and my lack of a fixed and rooted identity, but this, this is something else entirely different. It truly is living in a no-man’s land. Being East Asian has some many distinctive and deep-rooted markers that, even with someone like me, who was significantly purged of many of the cultural, linguistic and historical DNA markers of identity it could not stop them from eventually taking root and growing. I could not re-code and re-brand with a different culture, race or ethnic group. I may have had my identity guts torn out. But my chassis remained intact. At least I have an identity, that allows me to be housed, to be able to apply for work, to travel, to live. But these kids can’t even take out a library book.
95% of China’s abandoned and orphaned children live outside of urban China in the rural areas. In 2009 The Chinese Ministry of Affairs said that the number of orphans on the Chinese mainland had reached 712,000. That was a 24% increase on figures the Ministry released in 2005. In 2010 Wang Zhenyao, director of the One Foundation Philanthropy Research Institute at Beijing Normal University said,
Although the government continues to step up aid efforts, one-third of orphans are still living without regular help or are threatened by hunger, disease and insecurity, and many are forced to commit crimes
Wang also estimates that the number of actual orphans and abandoned children is far higher than the official figures released, as many of the rural figures are incomplete. These rural areas seem to be run and controlled with far more restrictions, some might say greater intransigence than Central government might apply. If the families standby their illegal children they have no life. Many of the Mothers are scared as they have also been ordered to be sterilised. This on top of the hefty fines.
It is unclear how many of China’s orphans and abandoned children are actually a second, or illegal child. But the number of orphans, abandoned children or children without adult care seems to increase year on year. What is going to happen now in the light of the relaxation on China’s One Child Policy?
Will Central Government intervene and allow these “illegal children” to be issued with their identity cards? Or will poorer, more desperate rural families fall prey to the burgeoning black-market for Chinese babies and the West’s continuing appetite for adopting Chinese children?