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In Santai village of Suining in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, there lives a couple who have raised 11 children. Large families are extremely rare in China following 30 years of strict family planning policies.
"It would be better to give birth to more children than saving money. As long as one child can make a good career, [he or she] can lift siblings and a whole family's fate can be changed,"said the father He Hong. His wife Zhang Xingzi gives another explanation. "We didn't want so many children intentionally. [We] just didn't know how to do birth control. Once pregnant, we were reluctant to abort. What's more, my husband is a barefoot doctor who could manage the delivery by himself every time," said Zhang.
However, to many neighbors, the family has enjoyed "preferential treatment." The couple has never paid any fines for breaking family planning policy and 10 of the children, except for the youngest child, who was adopted by a relative, all have hukou, or household registration.
Villagers think that it's because He Hong's brother is the Party secretary of the village. But the brother argued that he had been "strict" with them, saying that the family planning workers had unsuccessfully tried to have Zhang sterilized. He also claimed that his sister-in-law has "mental problems" and his brother is "unreasonable."
The township authority defended themselves by calling He Hong a "rascal" who often "pestered" the officials and threatened to petition their superiors.
Based on a "humanitarian" policy, the authorities have yet to punish the couple, instead giving them a basic living allowance, 880 yuan ($141) each month, since 2006. The local authority also provided other assistance, such as buying them seeds and fertilizers, and subsidizing a new house for the family.
Besides "special" treatment, the neighbors also complain that He's kids constantly sneak into their houses or grainfields to steal food. The family is unwelcome in the village.
He's oldest child is an 18 year-old girl, who seldom comes home from her job as a migrant worker. The second child, a 17 year-old boy who dropped out of school two years ago, also intends to go to the city.
"It's so lonely to live here. No one thinks much of us," the father said. He's started to regret having so many children.
In July 2012, Zhang Xingzi finally had a sterilization operation, assisted by the township authority.
Six children of the family play at an open field near their home.
The seventh child of the family lies on a pile of clothes while his siblings standing nearby. Most of the clothes near the house's door are secondhand, donated or collected from trash, and are also a bed for four of the children.
Children wait for supper in the kitchen where the mother is cooking.
Four children surround a kettle.