KAWASAKI - A 22-year-old Chinese trainee on the government-sponsored technical intern program was given a suspended prison term Wednesday for abandoning her newborn son last December for fear of being sent back home.
Zhan Meijuan was sentenced to one year and six months in prison, suspended for four years, for leaving the infant wrapped in a blanket at a private residence in the neighborhood after giving birth at her home in Kawasaki, according to the ruling by the Kawasaki Branch of the Yokohama District Court.
The baby was taken into protective custody and is being raised at a home for infants, a group supporting Zhan said.
“Considering that the temperature was about 13 degrees Celsius, her act would have had a serious effect on the baby boy who had just been born,” presiding Judge Kenichi Emi said when handing down the ruling. The defendant “disregarded his safety and physical health for economic reasons.”
But the judge also said that Zhan “has admitted to the act and is reflecting on it.”
Zhan had secured work as an intern in Japan in March last year but found out in August at a hospital in China that she was five months pregnant. As the money her parents had spent for her travel could not be refunded, she came to Japan and hid her pregnancy.
She worked at a food processing plant while keeping her pregnancy secret, and had the baby at home. “I was told in China that I would be deported if I was found to be pregnant,” said Zhan during a court hearing.
“I wanted to support my family (by working in Japan).”
Japan’s technical training program, introduced in 1993 to transfer skills to developing countries, has faced criticism at home and abroad over claims it has been used as a cover for companies to import cheap labor.
In March, the Japanese government warned companies against dismissing foreign trainees who get pregnant while working in the country, with some women having been compelled to consider an abortion or to return home.