A little sunshine for the children of Chinese prisoners

Every year, China incarcerates around 400,000 people, whose children are left on their own. This is where the Sun Village steps in. (Report: Julie Calderon, Heriberto Araujo and Forrest Shen)


Gao and Mei are respectively 6 and 15 years old. Their parents, both members of Falun Gong, a spiritual sect banned in China, were arrested and are now awaiting trial. Meanwhile, the two children will have to look after themselves in a special centre for prisoners’ children, located 100km outside Beijing.

The Sun Village is a unique institution in China. Each year, some 400,000 sentences are handed down across the country, including executions and life imprisonments. In most cases, convicts leave a family behind. For the numerous children separated from their relatives, the Sun Village is the only option left.

China’s unwanted orphans

The centre currently shelters about 140 children. Director and founder Shuqin Zhang, says she knows the case histories of each occupant. A former prison warden, Shuqin came up with the idea of setting up the Sun Village during a routine visit to the families of female prison inmates.

Yet, the centre does not only house children. A former prisoner herself, Liao recovered her self-respect thanks to the Sun Village. Like most others in her situation, she felt ostracised upon leaving jail. Handicapped by her past, she was unable to find work, until the centre offered to employ her. Today, she looks after children aged 2 to 5, whose parents have been executed. With no chance of finding foster parents, they are known as the damned orphans.

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