Feature Tuesdays: Society down the toilet

By Colin Armstrong


OPINION: I thought I had already lost faith in humanity, then I saw the news that a baby has been flushed down the toilet and I remembered there are still new depths still left to sink to.

Yes, a human child has been given the same treatment as a dead goldfish won at a country fair for popping balloons with a water gun or throwing hoops on to strategically placed cans, condemned to be disposed of without hesitation.

Being trapped, arms pinned by your side, immersed completely in a river of human waste, sounds like a scene from the Shawshank Redemption and not a contender for your earliest childhood memory. The child, who has been named Baby no 59, after the incubator it is currently being treated in, was cut free from a sewage pipe, little more than a few days old with the umbilical chord still attached.

The tragic images of the child’s face, unable to open its eyes, looking out at the world from inside cheap plastic tube makes me feel sick to my stomach.

Being trapped in a sewage pipe would be enough to terrify any individual, but this child never had a chance before it was viscously jettisoned towards an untimely and unnecessary demise in the most vile and reprehensible manner.

What is clear is that China is no stranger to controversy when it comes to disposing of new-born children, deemed unwanted or unsuitable, but this is a new low. With strict family planning rules there is more social value attached to males over females in China and baby girls are often found abandoned and left for dead.

I used to hear urban legends of crocodiles and other beasts lurking in the tubes and tunnels below your exposed rear-end, making you marginally paranoid in your moment of vulnerability. But I imagine hearing a babies cry coming from the porcelain portal would be enough to reduce me to a shuddering mess of fear and disbelief.

Not long after the news shot across the world the mother was identified and the story took another turn, perhaps one that we did not expect. The 22-year old woman had hidden her pregnancy after a one-night stand. Unable to afford medical treatment or an abortion the child was born over a squat toilet on the fourth floor of an apartment building in Jinhua, eastern China, without medical assistance.

The fear and shame of the young lady would have been palpable, but even the most overcrowded and underfunded orphanage would have been a more noble destination for the child than a toilet. The mother has since been admitted to hospital on the verge of mental collapse, following the public backlash to her deeply regrettable actions. Perhaps if she had come forward sooner and sought help to retrieve the child from the irrigation system this ordeal could have been avoided all together.

To act like this towards another person (even accidentally) or to intend to leave a vulnerable individual to die in horrific circumstances is both callous and hauntingly austere.

However, sometimes out of tragic circumstances comes change and I hope that this is true of this case and it comes to be more than just a ‘what is wrong with the world moment’ only to be forgotten shortly after as the earth continues to turn. We are capable of so much better than this.

The mother will face no charges and the child is now under the care of its grandparents.


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