Mother's tragic act wins empathy
Sitting in a courtroom last month, Shen Xia could not help but identify with the hardship of taking care of a child with cerebral palsy.
In a show of support, Shen attended the trial of Han Qunfeng who had admitted killing her twin 13-year-old sons who suffered from the condition.
There was an outpouring of sympathy for Han, 37, from Dongguan, Guangdong, after she was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison. In November she confessed that she had drowned her twins in a bath after knocking them out with sleeping pills and rice wine.
She then poisoned herself but was saved at a hospital the next day.
More than a thousand of Han's fellow villagers pleaded with the court for leniency as did a large number of internet postings. Her case exposed the lack of support for the parents of children with cerebral palsy and other serious disabilities. Shen hopes Han's case will make the government and the public take note of their plight.
Shen, who is 48 and the mother of 13-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Xinxin, says she and the other mothers understand the pressure Han was under. They say if she had received enough care and support the tragedy could have been avoided.
Han and her husband struggled to care for their boys for years and had sought medical help to treat them or improve their living conditions.
But it was costly and after 13 years Han had apparently lost hope. In 2009, she had had to resign from her job in a local bank and take care of the twins herself because babysitters refused to look after children who could not feed themselves or go to the bathroom on their own.
In her suicide note Han wrote to her husband, a local reporter: 'Sorry that without telling you I will take away our sons. Because it was me who brought the disaster on more than a decade ago, I should take it away by myself.'
The words resonated with Shen. 'It was so painful listening to Han's hearing and reading her suicide note. I have gone through all the sufferings she has except the last step, though I did have similar ideas before.'
According to Legal Daily, judge Li Ying wrote in his verdict: 'What happened to you has aroused public concern and society is now reflecting upon why we have not lent a helping hand to rescue mothers struggling between hope and hopelessness before tragedies take place.'
Feng Xin, director of the Guangzhou Yangai Special Children Parents' Club, said the public should care more about the difficulties facing mothers like Han 'because if people cannot help other desperate mothers ease their psychological burden and other pressures, there could be more tragedies'.
Families mostly have to rely on themselves to provide rehabilitation and care for disabled children because government-funded services are rare and there are few NGOs for disabled children.
According to Legal Daily there are 10,501 children under the age of six suffering from the disease in Guangdong alone. The figure represents cases registered with the government, but the number of disabled children in the countryside was unknown.
Shen and other mothers said having the professional skills to take care of children with special needs and connecting other parents with similar backgrounds were important. They said the parents' club in Guangzhou was the best place for them to express their sadness and anger, but that Han did not have this opportunity in Dongguan.
Local media reported that Han and her husband had never asked for help from local officials or government departments. Instead, they tried to take care of the twins by themselves.
Feng said even if Han had received a certificate acknowledging her twins were disabled she still would not get much help.