“Please Mrs. Fu, you have to understand. If you take this up with the police, they’re just going to lock you up again.” I pleaded. But the woman standing in front of me did not seem to mind my words. She looked down and continued with her story.
At UN Women Beijing, every week we would come across one or two women like Mrs. Fu herself. All of them had suffered from domestic violence and were so desperate for justice that despite UN agencies’ lack of authority over civil cases, they still decided to try their luck at our office.
Unlike most women who came to us for help, Mrs. Fu was nervous but unafraid. Hidden under a mass of tangled hair was a determined look on her face. The whole time she told her story, she would gaze down at the floor, her right hand fidgeting with the lower hem of her gray duffel coat. Yet the anguish and agony in her voice demanded attention.
Like many girls who were unfortunate enough to be born in rural China in the 60s, Mrs. Fu was abandoned by her biological parents because of her gender. Her foster mother was violent and manipulative. On her tenth birthday, the only present she got was a severe beating that rendered her left arm permanently disabled. Till this day, her left arm was always stiff and unbent. The entire palm of her left hand twisted unnaturally to the right and stuck rigidly to the side of her pants, her five fingers each stretching out like a dry twig.
When she was barely sixteen, her mother forced her into a marriage with a fifty-year-old man. Unable to deal with the daily beating, she fled back to her parents’ home only to be sent to another man by her family.
At this point, although she was only in her early twenties, both her body and spirit had been trampled freely by the feet of everyone along the way. Her memory had grown blurred and broken as a result. With an ashamed look, she told me timidly that she could never memorize the face of her second husband, and every time she woke up in the middle of a night, she would see a complete stranger lying in her bed.
Last year, having grown sick of decades of violence and lies, she came to Beijing to seek justice for herself. What she encountered in Beijing, however, was nothing but rejection.
To be fair, it was impossible to register a case for her. Every accusation she made was based on anecdotes and against people she could not find anymore. Mrs. Fu was earnest but her story was incoherent. She would casually mention how her neighbor stole her daughter three years ago and then suddenly start on a trivial family quarrel with her sister-in-law, unaware of the fundamentally different natures of the two incidents.
Since she arrived in Beijing, she had visited the police, the Women’s Confederation, even the government, yet nothing came out of it. I asked her what I could do for her.
“Call President Xi and ask him to help me!” She entreated.
I told her I couldn’t.
This was when she let me in on another secret. “Tell him that my body is a bioweapon!” She said. The look of pain and perplexity vanished from her eyes and an unusual excitement flared.
I asked her what she meant.
She explained that she was a powerful weapon that all superpowers hoped to attain. In fact, governments in China, America and Russia all implanted a chip in her body in order to monitor her every movement. Even her private thoughts could not escape their surveillance. “They were so afraid of my power that they tried to lock me up in the hospital, but I managed to get out every single time! ” She declared proudly.
My heart sank. I knew how the Chinese legal system would treat a schizophrenic woman. There was no chance for legal action. And if she went to the police again, they would simply put her into a mental institution again without giving her the proper care she needed.
In the end, she gave me her number and address, insisting that I report her case directly to President Xi—the supreme leader of China. There was nothing I could say or do.
After that day, I helped her find a cleaning job inside a building next to our office. I was relieved to discover that she now received basic living allowance from the government and had a tolerable place to live in Beijing. I visited her a couple times, brought her food and clothes and tried to spend some time with her. She told me, however, that my company was not she needed or wanted. After I refused again to call President Xi on her behalf, she stopped seeing me altogether.
Featured image: protestor campaigned against domestic violence in Beijing’s Qianmen Street (Simon Song).