Every day on my way to primary school, I would see in a creek newly aborted fetuses: downy, deathly white. Aborting female fetuses, unconstrained by any kind of law, had become almost standard practice.
For more than thirty-five years, under China’s coercive One-Child Policy, many women repeatedly abort until they get a male-born. The bodies of aborted girls would be thrown into a river, gutter or dump. The impact, even today, has been the profound disruption of the basis of traditional Chinese culture and society: the family, as shown in mine.
Catastrophe notwithstanding, little attention is paid inside China to this part of our recent history. Women like my mother are reluctant to remember or even acknowledge that period of their lives, unwilling to recall the ubiquity of violence and helplessness.
This project started with smaller aspirations: to throw into the questions and tensions built up from my childhood. What actually happened when the doctor gave my sister the lethal injection—how did she survive? How has her past affected her childhood, adulthood and now her own motherhood? How much resentment remains? Is there any possibility of us even talking about it? Why does my elder sister take abortion so lightly? This history has been a sensitive topic about which nobody has expressed themselves openly. It is a deathly quiet: a tense truce. My family is not alone: in that era there were millions of families like mine: helpless and desensitized parents, abandoned lives. I’d like to document women like my mother and sisters and reflect on our notions of life and existence.
Photography by Chen-Yi Wu
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