A life in legal limbo

By Du Qiongfang Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-12 17:43:01

Zhu Shuibao (right) has raised Zhu Junlong since she found him abandoned on the street 14 years ago. Photos: Cai Xianmin/GT

Zhu Shuibao (right) has raised Zhu Junlong since she found him abandoned on the street 14 years ago. Photos: Cai Xianmin/GT

When Zhu Shuibao found a naked, crying baby in a basket on the roadside one August morning 14 years ago, she decided the baby shared the same destiny with her and brought him home.

Although the baby's skin was dark, it never occurred to her that he might be a mixed child of Chinese and black parentage. When Zhu took the infant to a local hospital to have a physical check, the doctor told her the baby was a hunxue, literally, of "mixed blood." "I had never heard of the term 'mixed blood' for the first 55 years of my life," said the now 69-year-old Zhu. "I asked the doctor if the baby's blood was not good as I was worried that I could not afford to raise a sick baby."

But when the doctor told her "mixed blood" means the baby is the child of a Chinese and a foreigner, she breathed a sigh of relief, and gave the baby the name of Junlong with her family name Zhu, and the nickname Baobao.

Baobao soon became a hot topic in Pudong New Area, where Zhu and her family live. "Many people came to visit the good-looking baby," Zhu recalled. "To tell the story of my black grandson and me would take three days and nights. I could write a book about our life over the past 14 years," said Zhu proudly.

A farmer, Zhu had never thought of contacting the government at any point in her life until Baobao was 2 years old, when a neighbor recommended that she go to the local authorities to register as his legal guardian. Thus began an ongoing 12-year negotiation with the authorities regarding Baobao's legal identity.

The local civil affairs bureau refused to register a hukou (household registration) for Baobao because Zhu's own adult children had already had kids. If they were to add Baobao's hukou to one of their families, they would be fined 100,000 yuan ($16,343) under the one-child policy, far more than they could afford.

Zhu had been living a hard life for decades. In spite of the challenges she knew she would face, she nonetheless decided to bring up Baobao, who to this day does not have a legal identity. "Since I picked him up, I had to raise him no matter how hard it would be," said Zhu.

Without a legal identity, Baobao was confronted with all kinds of difficulties when he reached school age.

When Baobao was 4, Zhu was persuaded by local authorities to send him to an orphanage since she could not obtain a hukou for him. Worried about all the benefits that he would have to forgo otherwise - education, healthcare, steady employment - Zhu reluctantly agreed.

That day, local authorities drove Zhu and Baobao to an orphanage in Minhang district. However, upon seeing the child, who had sensed something was unusual and was in tears, the orphanage decided that they could not accept him.

"They said they would only take in Chinese, not foreigners," said Zhu. "I was relieved and brought Baobao home. It was the government who refused to accept the child."

Initially, the same thing happened when Zhu applied for him to go to a local kindergarten. With no birth certificate or hukou, the kindergarten turned them away, saying that Baobao was a foreign child. "If he is a foreigner who was born in China, we cannot ruin his future by not letting him receive a proper education. How can he survive without an education? As a thief?" Zhu responded.

"I told the authorities it is the country's opening-up policy that brought the foreign child to China. You cannot blame the child. If the government does not give him a proper education, I will sue them. I will raise the foreign child as a representative of the Chinese people." said Zhu.

Eventually the authorities ordered the kindergarten to take in Baobao.

Photos of Zhu Junlong, nicknamed Baobao, growing up

Photos of Zhu Junlong, nicknamed Baobao, growing up

Zhu's story became widely known among the local residents and authorities. Later, Baobao entered primary school without incident. "On his first day in primary school, he introduced himself as a foreigner," said Zhu. Concerned that he would not be accepted by his classmates, Zhu warned them not to bully him and pointed out that Baobao was much taller and stronger than his peers. Zhu is also strict with Baobao and forbids him to speak dirty words or get into fights. She warned him that if he hit anyone, he would have to fight against a legion of Chinese kids alone.

Zhu is now looking forward to the day that Baobao's hukou is approved. When contacted by the Global Times, a staff member at the local civil affairs bureau surnamed Fan said that the relevant documents were submitted to the Shanghai Public Security Bureau in August 2011 and his hukou is pending approval.

Zhu's love and care for Baobao is rewarded by Baobao's love back. The old grandma is Baobao's closest parent in the family. Baobao slept in the same bed as Zhu every night since he was 9 months old until last March when he grew too big to share a bed.

"We once tested him by asking if he makes lots of money one day, who will he give money to - me, my daughter-in-law or his biological mother? He replied he would give money to all of us. We then asked why he would give money to his biological mother who abandoned him. The considerate boy replied that his biological parents must have had difficulties at that time and were in a dilemma," said Zhu.

Baobao looks forward to the day he can repay Zhu. "I want to be a big boss in the future and make lots of money to buy a big villa for granny to rest in the sunshine in the garden," said the 14-year-old Baobao, now a handsome 173-centimeter-tall boy.

Posted in: Society, Metro Shanghai

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