As many as three million Chinese babies are hidden by their parents every year in order to get around the country’s one-child policy, a researcher has discovered.
"There were some difficult times," Mr Fu conceded. "We were chased around and we had to live like beggars. But I never thought about doing otherwise. I'm aware that many people do not want their daughters, but we have a decent respect for life. In China, we think that when you have a child it is like dropping a piece of your own body from you, and we never considered the other options," he said.
Since 1978, China’s government has limited each couple to one child in a bid to stem the growth of the world's largest population. To police the law, neighbourhood committees keep a close eye out for any pregnancies, and Family Planning officials have the power to force women to have abortions and sterilisations, as well as to monitor their contraception.
The policy does not apply to everyone. In the countryside, parents are allowed to try for a second child if their first is a girl. Couples who are both single children themselves are also allowed to have two children. A growing number of rich Chinese also pay fines in order to have a second child.
But for parents who do not comply with the law, the penalties can be harsh. Workers in state-owned companies can lose their jobs. Others face huge fines, the possible demolition of their homes, or even a prison term.
"When they eventually found out I had seven daughters, they tried to tear down our house, but fortunately I have good connections: my uncle is the head of the village," said Mr Fu. "They also wanted to fine me 600,000 yuan (£60,000). But I refused to pay them. Eventually they knocked down just a small part of my old house and I paid them 2,000 yuan," he added.
Mr Fu said that he knew several other people in his village who also had more than one child and that he had already encouraged his eldest daughter, who has recently born him a grandson, to continue to procreate. "I told her: no matter what the cost, she should have more kids," he said.
In millions of other cases, families are also prepared to take the risk and break the law, according to research by Liang Zhongtang, a demographer and former member of the expert committee of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission.
Examining China’s census figures, Mr Liang came across discrepancies that proved the subterfuge. “In 1990, the national census recorded 23 million births. But by the 2000 census, there were 26 million ten-year-old children, an increase of three million,” he said. "Normally, you would expect there to be fewer ten-year-olds than newborns, because of infant mortality," he added.
His findings suggest that the one-child policy may not have the grim consequences that have been widely predicted. According to China’s own figures, the traditional desire among Chinese families to have a boy, coupled with the one-child regime, should produce a surfeit of 30 million men by 2020, with many parents allegedly using ultrasound to guarantee the sex of their child.
Policymakers have warned that these millions of frustrated men, who would be unable to find wives, could wreak havoc on Chinese society, leading to a steep rise in prostitution and violence.
However, Mr Liang said the imbalance was “definitely not as severe as the statistics suggest”. Instead of aborting female foetuses, Mr Liang's research suggests that the families have the girls, but do not declare them.
“What happens is that the unplanned baby girls usually do not get registered with the authorities when they are born. The families wait until they are six or seven and by then, the local governments tend not to care as much,” he added.
"As soon as each of our daughters had finished breast-feeding, we sent her out to live with a friend or a relative," said Mr Fu. "They went to school, but without the proper papers," he added. "At the time, the family planning authorities were being very strict and they were arresting people if they went over the limit," he said.
"But in Guangdong, I had a friend who was a gangster. We went together to the hospital and forced a doctor to issue my wife a certificate saying she had been sterilised. That way, when the authorities came around, we could show them our documents. They had to be real though, because the officials often cross-checked to make sure."
Existing in a grey area of Chinese law does not seem to have damaged the prospects for Mr Fu's children. Three of his eldest five daughters are even Communist party members, while the other two remain in school. One daughter is studying a postgraduate law degree in Beijing while another is likely to take over from him as the head of the family business.