The family of a woman whose forced late-term abortion caused outrage in China have been attacked as “traitors” for discussing her plight with foreigners, while her husband has not been seen for two days, according to a a relative and a lawyer.
Authorities in Ankang, in Shaanxi province, last week apologised to the couple and said they had suspended three local officials after the publication of a photograph showing Feng Jianmei with the bloodied body of her seven-month-old foetus sparked outrage on microblogs.
Relatives say they have been followed for days, and Feng’s hospital was targeted this weekend by protesters carrying banners, one of which read: “Beat the traitors and expel them.”
Feng’s husband, Deng Jiyuan, has not been seen for two days. His sister Deng Jicai told the Guardian he rang on Tuesday afternoon to say that he was safe, but she did not know his whereabouts.
“The whole family feels very depressed and pressured,” she said. “The government have sent a team to investigate and don’t have a result yet, but right now we want freedom before the investigation results come out.
“Three or four guys are following me. I don’t know who they are.”
Earlier, she told the South China Morning Post the protesters at the hospital this weekend had “shouted and shouted, saying we were ungrateful and traitors since the government had promised to solve this matter but we still talked to foreign media … My cousin, who took pictures of them, was injured, with bruises and scratches all over his body.”
Zhang Kai, a lawyer who has been advising the family, added: “It is impossible the villagers made the banner about Deng Jicai. It must have been orchestrated by local officials.”
He said that higher levels of government had handled the matter correctly by launching an investigation but noted: “Things seem to be getting worse for the family, as some local officials have to take responsibility for this incident, and it will be criminal responsibility. They are panicking.”
Supporters also believe local officials may be behind a large number of online attacks on the family and smears about them.
Zhang said a relative who visited Feng on Tuesday found her tyres had been slashed when she returned to the hospital car park.
Forced abortions in China are illegal, but critics say they are carried out because of the pressure on officials to meet strict birth-control targets.
Feng said she was coerced into the abortion. Her husband added that she had been hooded, abducted and forcibly injected to induce the abortion because they were unable to pay a 40,000-yuan fine for breaking birth-control rules. Local officials said at the time that Feng had agreed “after repeated persuasion”.
Officials in Zhenping county and Ankang did not answer calls on Tuesday.
Asked whether officials would investigate claims of harassment of the family, a spokesman for Shaanxi provincial government, who gave his name only as Mr Jia, said: “I don’t know where you got that information. I have not heard of that. You said you had heard it – how did you hear it? The government is doing the investigation. We have announced everything on our website. You should check our website rather than following rumours.”
A spokesman for the National Population and Family Planning Committee said its investigation was continuing.
[Ultrasound via Andrew Park / Shutterstock]