Washington D.C., Aug 2, 2012 / 02:05 am (CNA).- Reports of a woman in China who saved dozens of abandoned babies in recent decades has drawn praise for her heroic actions and criticism for the one-child policy that leads to the practice of child desertion.
“These children need love and care,” said Lou Xiaoying. “They are all precious human lives. I do not understand how people can leave such a vulnerable baby on the streets.”
A July 30 article in the Daily Mail told the story of the 88-year-old woman who has dedicated the last 40 years of her life to saving abandoned Chinese babies from death.
Lou has made her living by recycling garbage. One day in 1972, she found an abandoned baby girl lying among the trash in the street.
The child “would have died had we not rescued her and taken her in,” she said. As she and her husband watched the baby grow, she realized that she had “a real love of caring for children.”
Lou, who has one biological daughter of her own, has rescued more than 30 babies. She and her husband – who died 17 years ago – raised four of the abandoned children and helped the rest find homes with family members and friends.
“I realized if we had strength enough to collect garbage how could we not recycle something as important as human lives,” she said.
Her youngest adopted child – a boy named Zhang Qilin – was in a dustbin when she found him. Although she was 82 years old, she decided to take him in, giving him a Chinese name that means precious and rare.
“Even though I was already getting old I could not simply ignore the baby and leave him to die in the trash,” she said. “He looked so sweet and so needy. I had to take him home with me.”
She explained that she took him back to her house, “a very small modest house in the countryside,” and nursed him back to health. Today her other children help look after the seven-year-old child, “a thriving little boy, who is happy and healthy.”
According to the Daily Mail, Lou is well respected as “a local hero” in the community, saving children despite her lack of money and power.
Mark Shan, spokesman for China Aid Association, a group that promotes religious freedom and aids victims of human rights violations in China, said that that he has heard similar stories of people “picking up children from the streets.”
Abandoned children – particularly girls – are a significant problem in the country, caused by both a “very strict law” and a “son preference culture,” he told CNA.
The nation’s one child policy is strictly enforced, and violating the law can result in heavy fines and even the loss of a job or home, he explained.
“The punishment is really severe,” he said. “And the children will suffer a lot.”
China’s one child policy has drawn considerable international attention in recent months, after blind pro-life activist Chen Guangcheng escaped from house arrest and was eventually able to come with his family to the United States.
Chen had been imprisoned after exposing the forced abortions and sterilizations that are routinely used to enforce the policy.
The strict regulation, which prohibits most couples from having more than a single child, is attributed with creating a troubling gender imbalance in the country and leading to high levels of female infanticide, abortion and abandonment, as well as the trafficking of young girls into child prostitution.
In addition to the law, Shan noted, traditional Chinese culture stresses the importance of producing an heir and therefore values male children over female children.
When couples are only permitted to have one child, they may choose to abandon an unwanted baby girl, he said, because “every family wants a son.”