KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 — A Malaysian mother and her twice-abducted son, who were previously barred from leaving China, were finally allowed to return home and managed to fly back yesterday just in time for a family reunion.
Cheng Chau Yang, 42, and her eight-year-old Malaysian son were, for almost two years, stuck in China under a mysterious court-imposed travel ban to secure the visitation rights of her ex-husband. The ex-husband had previously abducted the child twice.
“It feels so surreal to be back home after four long years of absence. It feels good to be home and safe again,” the mother told Malay Mail Online.
“Thank you everybody who has helped us out during the difficult times, especially Datuk Seri Anifah (Aman). It’s great to be a Malaysian.”
Myra Cheng, the eldest sister of Chau Yang who has been coordinating the campaign securing the restoration of her and her son’s travel rights, described their return as the “best mid-autumn gift ever”.
“The duo have regained their freedom and have safely arrived Kuala Lumpur in the wee hours yesterday,” she said in an open letter today.
Yesterday was the mid-autumn festival, a day now popularly associated with mooncakes but also a time for family reunions among the local ethnic Chinese community.
In retracing the events that led to Chau Yang regaining her freedom to travel, Myra highlighted a July 28 press conference that was held jointly with MCA Wanita chief Datuk Heng Seai Kie, advocacy groups Women’s Aid Organisation, Voice of the Children, Association of Women Lawyers and the family’s lawyer Goh Siu Lin.
“At that point, it had been a four-year struggle in China for the family — first over a custodial right that was not enforceable, and then over the mysterious and absurd exit bans that were imposed on the mother and child 2 days after they were finally reunited,” she said in the open letter.
Myra said she had then written open letters in August to China’s ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang and to Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, noting that Anifah immediately responded to the family and met with them upon his return from abroad.
“Datuk Seri Anifah told us he would not and could not interfere with the Chinese sovereignty and legal system. However, on humanitarian grounds, he would help highlight our case to his Chinese counterpart, and let the Chinese government decide if they would take further actions in accordance to their laws,” she said.
Prior to the recent lifting of the travel ban in China, Chau Yang and her son went through another court-supervised visitation on September 26 with the ex-husband.
“This time, the court protected the safety of my sister and her son, and didn’t allow another abduction and physical violence to take place,” she said, referring to the Changning Enforcement Court in Shanghai, China.
“The judge also told my sister that future visitations, like most divorce cases, can be adjusted depending on what’s happening in the child’s life — visitation can be done over school holidays etc, and through WeChat or video calls if necessary.”
Myra previously told Malay Mail Online that Chau Yang almost lost her child a third time, when the ex-husband’s family made a failed abduction attempt during the first court-supervised visit last January.
Previously, Chau Yang faced the prospects of being trapped in China with her Malaysian child for another 10 years, as the Enforcement Court had said the travel ban can be renewed by the ex-husband up until the child turns 18 to secure his visitation rights.
This was despite the Malaysian duo not breaking any laws in China. The ban was also not lifted previously even though Chau Yang had told the court that she does not plan to run off and merely wanted to visit her family in Malaysia, and even despite showing proof of her employment in China and offering to pay a deposit to guarantee her return.
Myra said, however, that the Enforcement Court in China later decided to “take a closer look” at Chau Yang’s case, adding that it had after reviewing the evidence decided that her guarantee to fulfill her legal obligation was sufficient for her to be allowed to leave the country.
The Enforcement Court lifted the ban “shortly thereafter” the September 26 court-supervised visit, Myra told Malay Mail Online.
“And so, our four-year ordeal has come to an end in two months. And my sister and nephew are now catching up with things they have missed out in the past four years — visiting our soon-to-be-two-year-old nephew, catching up with friends and relatives, and will soon be visiting our 94-year old grandma back in our hometown,” Myra said.
Myra described the help and support that poured in as acts that affirmed the family’s faith in humanity, adding that they now wish that other mothers who face a similar plight will be reunited with their children.
“While we celebrate our little family reunion, our hearts go out to the many other parents we have come to know — mothers especially — who have been unfairly separated from their children. They have abided by the law too, but they receive little protection; and they have not been as lucky as we are. We hope their own reunions may not be too far away,” she said.
Chau Yang and her son now finally have their rights to freely move in and out of China restored. In the months leading to the restoring of their freedom, the Cheng family had launched a Facebook page and an online petition to China’s president that at the time of writing has 8,185 signatures. Her cousin had also shot a docu-drama titled “Mama on a Mission” that has currently been viewed 12,281 times on YouTube to highlight her plight.