When an only child dies

"One-child families are walking a tightrope," Fan said. "Once you lose your child, you lose all hope."

China: when an only child dies

Zheng Qing was devastated when she heard the news last month that China will scrap the one-child policy. It was too late to have a second child. She thought it was a great honour to follow the one child policy at that time but now feels the rule has let her down badly.

She and her husband are among more than a million grieving Chinese parents who have lost the only child that the government allowed them to have.

Zheng’s husband, Fan Guohi, 56, has petitioned the government to give "shidu" parents, those who have lost their only child, both moral and financial support. Their son died from a car accident in 2012. His loss left the couple "emotionally ruined", Zheng said.

Cui Wenlan’s son was 30 when he died after an illness; she had been forced to abort her second baby in 1985. Now she and her husband are adrift in a country where parents traditionally rely on their children to look after them in old age.

"If, back then, we had been allowed to give birth again, I wouldn't be in so much trouble and wouldn't be so lonely," said Cui, 53, from the northern city of Zhangjiakou.

Cui said she could not get surgery after being injured in a car accident because she did not have a child to sign the agreement for her operation.

Cui's story underscores the punitive nature of China's family planning policy, beyond the more well-known stories of forced abortions and sterilisations, and highlights the plight of "shidu" families.

Huang Peiyao’s son Yu Jie was born in 1985 and died after a car accident in 2011. In the factory where she worked, inspectors closely monitored women’s pregnancies. She had an abortion after falling pregnant for a second time.

Following the loss of her son, she adopted a girl to help overcome the sorrow and find new hope. The adoption barred her from government financial aid for parents who had lost an only child.

Now retired, she lives on a pension and does part-time manual jobs to raise her adopted daughter. She urges the government to give her access to financial support.

Sun Huanping and her husband Li Guoquan’s son, Li Chao, was born in 1987 and died from a car accident in 2013. Sun terminated another pregnancy and couldn’t think of having a second child because of the strict application of the one-child policy.

After the loss of their son, Sun has suffered from conditions including depression, high blood pressure and diabetes. They live on Sun’s pension and Li’s monthly salary; it is not enough to cover their medical bills so they rely on the savings they had put aside for their son’s marriage.

Jiang Weimao and Zhang Yinxiu's son, Jiang Tingyi, was born in 1984 and died of diabetes in 2010. They recall the propaganda slogan in the 1980s: “Only having one child is good, the state will take care of the elderly.”

They both worked in the same glass factory and didn’t think of having a second baby for fear of losing their job.

Zhang had an abortion after falling pregnant a second time. Now retired, they live with Zhang’s parents on the outskirts of Zhangjiakou city.

Their son’s struggles with diabetes left them in heavy debt. Now they live on a pension but it's not enough to cover the family’s medical bills.

The change in the one-child policy has nothing to do with them and has only deepened their sorrow after the loss of their only child, Zhang said.


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