A US tale of two Chinese immigrants

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am


You have read all about the blind dissident Chen Guangcheng and his journey to America. Here's a name you probably won't recognise: Bei Bei Shuai. While America was busy defending the human rights of the famous dissident, its justice system is going out of its way to torment an obscure immigrant from Shanghai who legally moved to the US.

Shuai has spent more than a year in jail in Indiana and is facing a murder charge for the death of her unborn 33-week-old fetus when she tried to kill herself by drinking rat poison.

In December 2010, when her Chinese boyfriend dumped her, a pregnant Shuai became so distraught that she tried to commit suicide. Friends rushed her to hospital. She survived but her fetus was showing signs of distress. Doctors performed a Caesarean section. The baby lived a few days, but suffered a brain haemorrhage. Shuai held her child for five hours as the baby slowly faded and died.

Shuai went into a severe depression and had to be committed to a mental ward. By this time, detectives were investigating. Prosecutor Terry Curry decided to charge her with murder by holding Shuai criminally liable for the outcome of her pregnancy, a legal precedent in his state.

As quoted in The Guardian newspaper, Curry said: 'Her actions were directed specifically at the unborn child. It's not that she was trying to take her own life ... she was trying to take the life of her fetus.'

If convicted, she will face a mandatory sentence of 45 years to life. Shuai's only crime was that she became so distraught she lost self-control.

The law that Curry cited was designed to protect women from violent men but is now aggressively used against a Chinese woman. What about female smokers and drinkers who suffer miscarriages, or women who pass on deadly diseases such as HIV to their babies?

Curry, like many US prosecutors and judges, has no sense of proportion, mercy or discretion, qualities that British common law, whatever its faults, encourages. The rule by men in China may be scary, but the rule of law in America can be downright crazy.