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Hidden brutality of China's one-child policy -

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ELEANOR HALL: It may be the world's economic powerhouse but China retains a population control
policy from the 1970s that is regarded by many, inside and outside the country, as draconian.

Now a prominent Chinese author has written a book about the impact of that policy and the
centuries-old cultural practices that favour the birth of boys on China's mothers and daughters.

Xinran - she is so well known as a former radio host in her native China that she uses only her
first name - wrote The Good Women of China when she left China for the UK. She says her latest book
Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother was terribly painful to write. It tells of the often
horrific treatment of baby girls born in China and the impact of that on the more than 100,000 baby
girls each year who are adopted overseas, and on the mothers back home.

Xinran joined me in The World Today studio this morning and said she wrote her book for those
mothers and daughters.

XINRAN: They all come to me, ask me the same questions. They always say why my Chinese mum didn't
love me or didn't want me. Some kids even gave me a terrible guessing like my mum is a criminal or
because I am ugly or because a Chinese mum all very crude so I thought it's unfair to the mother
and the daughter because those daughters, one day they will become mother.

I believe from the mothers I met in China, they all love their children in different way. If they
are educated they knew how to use the beautiful sentence to describe their pain. If they never been
educated they all imagine the life. They even say oh please tell those bigger nose mother, they
call the foreigners like bigger nose mother, don't hold my baby on the right arm, on the left
please because the left close to the heart. Baby feel safe and there was some even say, oh please
let those bigger nose mum, don't let my baby start working before five years old.

Because they never been educated so I just hope I could write a book for those secret mothers and
our forgotten daughters.

ELEANOR HALL: So you have a message for the adopted Chinese girls overseas but is there a message
also for the Chinese Government?

XINRAN: That is very difficult to persuade them to understand this because China just opened the
last 30 years. In many ways we have improved quite a lot, the living condition, education, economic
but again this country has been rooted by over 5,000 years cultural beliefs particularly this kind
of male cultural beliefs.

So in the city it is no difference between the women in Sydney or Melbourne or to Chinese Shanghai
or Beijing between but if you drive to the countryside now you will see. You are just like walk
back to 500 years ago. Particularly this kind of cultural beliefs means you have to give the boy to
the family tree so the item how to deliver baby is at two levels.

At the top level is the warm water for washing boy. That called a rouse (phonetic) water. Now
underneath is a boiling water. That is called a kidding (phonetic) water. So when you find this
baby delivered is a boy, you wash it and as a part of the family. If the girl you just turn the
tap, drop this girl into the bottom boiled.

So sometimes I really think how much we really have improved.

ELEANOR HALL: Well, as you say this desire for a male baby predates China's one child policy but do
you blame the one child policy for perpetuating this horrible treatment of girls?

XINRAN: I won't say this is all based on single child policy. It has become a very strong policy in
many cities and lots of people have been punished but that is a very limited part of this. I think
tradition. Tradition is really powerful.

ELEANOR HALL: One of the sort of hidden signs of the pain that these woman go through is the
suicide rates among women. Tell us about that?

XINRAN: The suicide actually always there but it was very interesting. Since the 1980s and 1990s
women commit suicide and they become higher and higher. I didn't realise why until I met them
because like some woman told me, before we never left village. Lots of woman when they come to the
city they realise life could be different. At least a man and a woman could live in equal or girls
have a same life as a boy.

So that made lots of mothers feel the pain - very painful and then they realised they kill their
own daughters.

ELEANOR HALL: Now you write that in 2007, 120,000 Chinese babies were adopted overseas. Do you know
how many girl babies are still being killed or left to die in China?

XINRAN: This number you will never find. I don't believe any village or any local authority has
this kind of recourse at all.

ELEANOR HALL: Your book makes very clear that the personal impact of the tradition that favours
boys and the government policy that tends to favour boys as well - not only the impact on the
mothers and the fathers and the midwives but in your own case too, the foster families. Are these
stories told within China?

XINRAN: No because single child policy. Before 2007 this was totally banned. No one talk about this
because our culture, but from 2006/07 there is quite a big gossip in China because one American
family killed a baby girl, Chinese girl, so that made the Chinese very angry.

So now we become enraged. Why we can't look after our own children. So I don't know how the
Government will work out this but I think in last few years Chinese people have different view on
before. I think we started thinking at the moment.

ELEANOR HALL: Xinran, thanks very much for speaking to us.

XINRAN: Thank you.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Chinese author Xinran talking about her book, Message from an Unknown Chinese
Mother and if you'd like to listen to a longer version of that interview just go to our website: