Fair Point: Baby 59’s near-death is surely China’s shame

Baby No. 59.
Baby No. 59.
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He’s known only by a number - and for the full-scale rescue drama that saved him from an unthinkable fate.

Baby 59 was jammed head-first in a stinking sewer pipe in a block of flats in China after falling into a toilet, his umbilical cord and placenta still attached.

The internet meant images of his rescue, and his frightened little face as clay pipework was carefully chipped away to free him, were relayed worldwide, provoking a wave of sympathy, closely followed by outrage and anger. How could any mother do something so barbaric?

Those same emotions were also felt in China; well-wishers across his homeland are anxiously monitoring the fate of the tiny 5lb newborn and asking themselves what the rest of the world must think.

It was originally thought he had been deliberately abandoned; flushed away by a callous mother. But it’s now emerged his survival was actually down to her. She called for help and stayed throughout the two-hour rescue, despite pretending she wasn’t his mother. She claims she went into labour unexpectedly on the toilet.

It remains to be seen if she’s telling the truth but we should feel pity for her, not disgust. China condemns motherhood outside of marriage. Abortion is allowed, but what do you do if you can’t afford it and you will be stigmatised by society if you have the child?

A Beijing hospital that treats abandoned babies found in the capital had received more than 10,000 in the past decade. Most are girls, abandoned because of China’s strict one-child policy,

Mother and baby are symbolic of the shame, ignorance and poverty that still blights a hugely wealthy and dominant country.

I hope Baby 59 never knows of his desperately sad arrival into the world.