China Dialogue reports on a radiation accident in 1992 from a misplaced cobalt-60 cylinder that killed one man in Shanxi and contaminated his pregnant wife, whose now 18-year-old daughter is living with the consequences:
At home, Zhang Jingsheng is Jingjing, much-loved daughter of her mother and step-father. In neighbourhood gossip, she’s Jingsheng, whose father tragically died before she was born. And in research papers, she is the subject codenamed “Jing”, who grew up to have an IQ of only 46.
Zhang Jingsheng’s family live in Xinzhou’s Nanguan village, a 10-minute walk south of the landmark Jinbei gate, where the old city used to be. But the city has developed towards the north, leaving Nanguan behind. “This is a slum now,” says Jingsheng’s mother Zhang Fang.
Zhang Fang, 42, has dark and shiny curly hair, but if she lowers her head, shocking white roots are visible. “It’s dyed. My hair turned white when I was 30,” she says quietly. “If none of it had happened, things would be so much better now.”