Xiaoying (fictitious name) is an 18-year-old girl from China’s Gansu province. Shortly after graduating from junior high school she left her hometown in order to find a job in a big city. She moved to the capital Beijing where she worked part-time to support herself. In 2013 she met a boy named Dumou. In February 2014 they started a relationship, but they broke up one month later. Yet their brief love changed her life forever.
Xiaoying discovered that she had got pregnant. Alone and without money, she didn’t know what to do. In the sixth month of her pregnancy she decided to have an abortion. She went to a hospital, but the doctor told her that the operation would cost around 10,000 renminbi. She hadn’t got so much money. She gave up her plan and just waited.
In the morning of the 30th of October, 2014, alone in her flat, she gave birth to a girl. While the newborn cried, Xiaoying stuffed the baby’s mouth with toilet paper – whether she wanted to stop her from crying so as not to attract the neighbours’ attention, or whether she deliberately killed her, is not clear. Shortly afterwards, the baby died as a result of asphyxia and bleeding. Xiaoying was charged with voluntary manslaughter.
A court in Beijing rejected the argument put forward by the defendant’s lawyer that Xiaoying had not killed the child intentionally. However, despite the hideousness of the crime, the court found that Xiaoying’s young age, precarious financial situation and personal circumstances were mitigating factors. She had received no help either from relatives or friends; she gave birth to the child on her own and was mentally and physically debilitated. She therefore could not handle the situation rationally.
Dumou, asked the court to be lenient. He had not been informed by his ex-girlfriend of the pregnancy. He learnt about the death of his daughter when a cousin of Xiaoying’s phoned him. He said that he forgave Xiaoying and understood her situation. He stated that her action had not been premeditated, and pointed out that she had never committed any offence before and would pose no danger to society.
Taking into account these facts, the court gave Xiaoying a 3-year suspended prison sentence.