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China's One-Child Policy

Address to the EU Parliament in Brussels - HRWF Int'l December 2, 2008 Conference "Human Rights in China After the Olympics and Before the Universal Periodic Review
By Reggie Littlejohn, Human Rights Without Frontiers Int'l
December 04, 2008

HRWF Int'l (05.12.2008) - Website: http://www.hrwf.net - Email: info@hrwf.net - Most people know that China has a "One-Child Policy." But do they stop to think about what happens to a woman when she becomes pregnant in violation of that policy?

 

            On October 5 of this year, an article appeared in the South China Morning Post about a young woman, Jin Yani, who was drifting off to sleep one night when the family planning police smashed the lock to her front door and dragged her out of her house in her nightclothes, screaming and terrified.   Her crime:   getting pregnant without a birth permit.   Her punishment:   forced abortion, even though she was nine months pregnant, and this was her first child. [i]   Jin Yani knelt on the floor of the family planning center and begged the police to let her keep her baby.   They dragged her crying and screaming, and five people held her down on the hospital bed as they ripped off her clothes and injected saline solution with a long needle through her womb and into the fetus to terminate it.   The dead baby was extracted on September 9, 2000. When her husband, Yang, returned from his business trip, he rushed to the hospital to find Jin Yani purple and near death from blood loss.    She spent 44 days in the hospital because of severe hemorrhaging. Now, she is infertile.  

 

            Such brutality, unfortunately, is not uncommon in present-day China. This incident is outstanding because Jin Yani and her husband, Yang, sued the Chinese government for the loss of their child and fertility.   For the first time, a Beijing court agreed to hear the case.   Later, a court in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, ruled that certain officials should be replaced.   This has not happened.   Nor did the court offer any monetary compensation to Jin Yani or her husband.   Meanwhile, Jin Yani and Yang live in hiding not even their mothers know where they are.   They cannot return to their village for fear that the cadres there would retaliate for the lawsuit. [ii]     

 

            The One-Child Policy is an issue about which pro-life people and pro-choice people can agree. No one supports forced abortion, because it is not a choice. For example, Senator Hillary Clinton a pro-choice Democrat who has been named to become the next United States Secretary of State publicly criticized the coercive enforcement of the One Child Policy during the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, in 1995.  


            The Chinese Communist Party would have the world believe that it is loosening up on the One-Child Policy. To this end, they point out that they have created an exception couples who are both only children can now have two children. Also, certain other exceptions have long existed. In the countryside, couples whose first child is a girl are often allowed to have a second child in the attempt to have a boy. Further, certain ethic minorities are allowed to have more than one child. In addition, the wealthy can circumvent the policy by paying exorbitant fines or moving to Hong Kong for the birth of their second child. This option, of course, is not available for the vast majority of people in China, seventy percent of whom still live in the countryside.   It can also create resentment among those who cannot afford to buy their way out of the policy.


            In my view, these exceptions do not constitute improvement. The problem with the one-child policy lies not in the number of children allowed. The problem is with the coercive enforcement of the birth limit, whatever that limit might be. Whether a couple is allowed to have one child or two children, it is a human rights atrocity to drag a woman out of her home in the middle of the night, screaming and pleading, to forcibly abort her pregnancy, even in the ninth month -- and under certain circumstances, to sterilize her -- because she does not possess a government-issued birth permit. This is a crime against women, and hence a crime against humanity, of the first order.

 

            The Chinese Communist Party would also have the world believe that compliance with the One-Child Policy is voluntary, achieved through education and persuasion. It is not. According to reports by the United States Department of State, Amnesty International, the Laogai Research Foundation, the Population Research Institute, hearings conducted in the United States Congress, and other sources too numerous to name, the implementation of the One-Child Policy remains coercive. [iii] These coercive measures include: Forced abortion, forced sterilization, detention of family members until the illegally pregnant woman gives herself up for an abortion, job loss and other financial pressure, and the destruction of homes for those who escape forced abortion.


            The Chinese Communist Party states that these coercive measures are carried out by local officials who are acting in violation of the law. We know that this statement is not true, for at least three reasons.


            1.   Provincial Regulations.   According to the 2008 State Department UNFPA Determination, official provincial regulations mandate forced abortion for out of plan pregnancies.   See, for example, the Hunan Province Population and Family Planning Regulations, Article 22, which states, in pertinent part:   ". . . Pregnancies that do not comply with the legal requirements for childbirths shall be terminated in a timely manner." [iv]

 
            2. Gao Xiao Duan.   A former family planning official, Gao Xiao Duan, brought to the West documentary evidence that the coercive implementation of the One-Child Policy is mandated by Beijing. Her testimony and documentation are in the United States Congressional Record. [v]


            3.   Chen Guangcheng.   Blind activist Chen Guangcheng exposed the mass forced abortions and forced sterilizations in Linyi County, Shandong Province, in 2005.   For this he is currently serving a four-year prison sentence. On April 30, 2006, Time Magazine named him in its list of "2006's Top 100 People Who Shape Our World," in the category of "Heroes and Pioneers." [vi] In June of 2007, according to an Amnesty International report, he was severely beaten in prison and denied medical attention. [vii]

 

            If it is true, as the CCP contends, that officials who perform forced abortions and forced sterilizations are breaking the law, then why aren't the Family Planning Officials in jail? Why, instead, is Chen Guangcheng in jail, for reporting these abuses? If the One Child Policy is truly voluntary, then why doesn't the Chinese Communist Party free Chen Guangcheng immediately?


             The Chinese Communist Party boasts that it has "prevented" 400 million births since 1979 through its One Child Policy. [viii]    This figure is greater than the entire population of the United States.   Further, the top population official in China recently stated that the Chinese Communist Party has no plans to change the one-child policy for at least another ten years. [ix]   


The One-Child Policy has given rise to many other human rights violations, including the following ten issues:

 

1.      Gendercide. Because of the traditional preference for boys, most of the aborted babies are girls. There are 117 boys born for every 100 girls born in China, and in some areas the number is as high as 130 boys born for every 100 girls.   Due to the availability of ultrasound technology, sex-selective abortion is practiced and tens of millions of girls are aborted. [x]

2.      Human Trafficking and Sexual Slavery.   Because of abortion and infanticide of baby girls, there are an estimated 20 to 30 million Chinese men who will never marry because their future wives were terminated before they were born. This gender imbalance is a powerful, driving force behind trafficking in women and sexual slavery, not only in China, but all over Asia.   According to a statement by the United States Department of State, "Women and children are trafficked into [China] from North Korea, Vietnam, Burma, Mongolia and Thailand." [xi]  

3.      Stolen Children. A film just came out called China's Stolen Children, documenting the burgeoning black market in stolen children 70,000 a year -- created by the One-Child Policy. [xii]

4.      "Illegal" children. After the earthquake in Sichuan Province in May of this year, the Chinese Communist Party attempted to comfort bereaved parents by offering three things. First, if you lost your only child, they said, the government will issue a birth permit allowing you to have another child. Second, if you've been sterilized, the government will send a physician to attempt to reverse the sterilization. Third, if your legal child was killed, then your illegal second child can become legal, and hence eligible for education and healthcare. [xiii]   These offers of help also constitute a series of startling admissions.   First, the Chinese Communist Party has unwittingly admitted that Chinese citizens must have a birth permit to be allowed to give birth.   Second, they have admitted that sterilization occurs under the One-Child Policy. Third, they have admitted that that there is a whole population of "illegal" second children, who are not eligible for education or health care.   Indeed, these "illegal children" have no official existence, which will likely prevent them from marrying or obtaining employment later in life.   A lawyer representing parents of children killed in the earthquake has been arrested. [xiv]

5.      "Forsaken" Children. Recent research done by the China Aid Association has revealed that there are children who have been abandoned by their parents in the aftermath of a divorce. When the divorced parents re-marry and would like to have a child with their new spouses, they are only allowed one child, so they may abandon the child of their first marriage. These children are left destitute and have been called "forsaken."

6.      Rioting and Violence.   In May of 2007, thousands of villagers in Guangxi province clashed violently with police after a two-month crackdown against violators of the One-Child Policy.   According to villagers, family planning officials "chased people down the streets and into the fields . . . men and women were rounded up for forced sterilizations" and women were forcibly aborted.   Those with second children were fined heavily, and if they could not pay, their valuables were confiscated, and in some cases, their homes were destroyed.   The villagers responded by breaking into a government building, smashing computers and setting the building on fire.   There were inconsistent reports of death and injuries during the riot. [xv]  

7.      Health problems due to forced sterilizations. When the Family Planning Police sterilize women for violating the One Child Policy, these sterilizations are most often not performed by highly trained gynecological surgeons, especially in the countryside. Often, there are infections and other complications. Many women have complained that their health was destroyed by these sterilizations.

8.      Female suicide. Forced abortion traumatizes women. In the West, post-abortive counseling is becoming available to help women deal with the physical and emotional aftermath of having an abortion. No so in China. According to the World Health Organization, China has the highest female suicide rate of any country in the world, and it is the only nation in which more women than men kill themselves. [xvi]    Congressman Christopher Smith, who has taken a leading role in exposing the atrocities of the One-Child Policy through Congressional hearings and other means, stated, "According to the most recent State Department Human Rights Report, one consequence of   '[China's] birth limitation policies' is that 56% of the world's female suicides occur in China, which is five times the world average, and approximately 500 suicides by women per day." [xvii]

9.      Aging Population. Further, the One-Child Policy has created the intractable problem of the aging of the Chinese population. Soon on the demographic horizon, after the year 2030, the proportion of retirees to working people will increase to the point that   the shrunken youthful population will not be able to sustain the retirees in their old age. [xviii]   Nor does China offer Social Security. The CCP has not unveiled any plan on how they will handle this problem.  

10.  Tibetans and Uighurs. Even though, as ethnic minorities, Tibetans and Uighurs are supposed to be exempt from the One-Child Policy, it has been reported that forced abortion and sterilization are rampant. [xix]  

 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which China is a signatory, will celebrate its 60th  Anniversary on December 10, 2008. [xx]    China's coercive enforcement of its One-Child Policy violates the spirit and the letter of this Universal Declaration, which protects the rights of women, children, and the family. [xxi]    Furthermore, the One-Child Policy violates provisions of the "Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women" (CEDAW), which China ratified in September 1980, [xxii] and also the "Declaration of the Fourth World Conference on Women" held in Beijing in 1995. [xxiii]

"A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members, and among the most vulnerable are surely the unborn and the dying." [xxiv]   There is no more intimate part of a woman's body than her womb.   For the Chinese Communist Party to function as "womb police," wielding the very power of life and death, is a violation of a woman's innermost being physically, emotionally and spiritually.   Men, also, are deeply affected by this violence and loss of control, as are children. For China to enter its destiny as a nation, the Chinese Communist Party must turn from killing and oppressing the weakest and most vulnerable members of its society, and instead embrace and protect them.   The freedom to choose to give birth is the freedom upon which all life is based.

 

Reggie Garcia Littlejohn, China Aid Association
reggielittlejohn@gmail.com


[i] Jin Yani had been unmarried at the time of conception a violation of the One-Child Policy. See, e.g.: Article 25 from the "Henan Province Population and Family Planning Regulations": "Under any of the following conditions, necessary remedial measures shall be taken and the pregnancy terminated under the guidance of family planning technical service workers: (1) Pregnancy out of wedlock . . ." Excerpt from Chinese Provincial Regulations, as included in the 2008 State Department UNFPA Determinations.

[ii] Jones, Richard. "Parental Responsibility: Challenging the Injustices of the One-Child Policy." South China Morning Post, Electronic Edition. October 5, 2008.

[iii] See, for example: Elegant, Simon. "Why Forced Abortions Persist in China." Time. [Online] Available
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1615936,00.html, April 30, 2007.

[iv] As included in the 2008 State Department UNFPA Determinations.

[v] Gao Xiao Duan. "Forced Abortion and Sterilization in China." Statement before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee of the United States House of Representatives. June 10, 1998. See also the testimony of Harry Wu on that same date, attaching and explaining documentation that these policies come from Beijing.

[vi] Beech, Hannah. "Chen Guangcheng." Time. [Online] Available
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1186887,00.html, April 30, 2006

[vii] Amnesty International. "China: Torture/Medical Concern/Prisoner of Conscience, Chen Guangcheng." June 21, 2007.

[viii] Li, Anita. "The Prevention of 400 Million Births." World Mission. [Online] Available
http://www.worldmission.ph/5June06/Ch ina%20Window-One-child%20policy.htm, June, 2006.

[ix] Yardley, Jim. "China Sticking with One Child Policy." The New York Times. [Online] Available
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/11/world/asia/11china.htm, March 11, 2008.

[x] Tiefenbrun, Susan W. "Gendercide and the Cultural Context of Sex Trafficking in China." [Online] Available
http://works.bepress.com/susa n_tiefenbrun/2/, 2008.

[xi] Lagon, Mark P. "Trafficking in China." Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, United States Department of State, Congressional Human Rights Caucus Briefing, Washington, D.C. October 31, 2007.

[xii] "China's Stolen Children," ABC Reporter, Channel 4, broadcast [Online] Available
http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2008/s2219617.htm, April 24, 2008. See also, Fan, Maureen. "A Desperate Search for Stolen Children." Washington Post Foreign Service. March 10, 2008, Page A11; Genzlinger, Neil. "Sold by the Thousands, Thanks to a One-Child Policy." The New York Times. July 14, 2008.

[xiii] "Child Policy Relaxed After Quake." Taipei Times, AP, Beijing. [Online] Available
http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2008/05/27/2003413034, May 27, 2008; "China's One-Child Jacobs, Andrew. Policy Has Exceptions for Quake Victims' Parents." International Herald Tribune. [Online] Available
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/27/asia/27child.php, May 27, 2008; Mu, Eric. "Govt. Loosens Post-Earthquake Birth Control." Danwei. [Online] Available http://www.danwei.org/front_page_of_the_day/the_beijing_newsmay_26_2008.php, May 26, 2008.

[xiv] Chinese Dissident Held on Secret Charges: Wife. Taipei Times, AFP, Beijing. [Online] Available
http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2008/07/20/2003417986, July 20, 2008.

[xv] Kahn, Joseph. "Birth Control Measures Prompt Riots in China. The New York Times.

[Online] Available http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/21/world/asia/21cnd-china.html?ei=5088&en=d78ee109ec1be955&ex=1337400000&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=print, May 21, 2007. See also, Ni, Ching-Ching. "China's One-Child Policy Spurs Riots." Los Angeles Times. [Online] Available
http://articles.latimes.com/2007/may/24/world/fg-riots24, May 24, 2007.

[xvi] Allen, Christopher. "Traditions Weigh on China's Women." BBC News. [Online] Available
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/5086754.stm, June 19, 2006.

[xvii] "Smith Shines Human Rights Spotlight on Coercion in China's One-Child Policy." [Online] Available
http://chrissmith.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=56952, December 14, 2004.

[xviii] "Ageing 'Threatens China Economy.'" BBC News. [Online] Available
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/7149330.stm, December 18, 2007.

[xix] Thinly, Phurbu. "China Asked to End Violence Against Women in Tibet," Phayul.com.

[Online] Available
http://current.com/items/89562274/china_asked_to_end_violence_against_women_in_tibet_forced_abortions_rape_torture.htm, November 25, 2008. See also, Goodenough, Patrick. "Don't Fund UNFPA, Lawmakers Urge , After [Uighur] Woman Escapes Forced Abortion." CNSNews.com. [Online] Available
http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=39576, November 19, 2008.

[xx] For the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, see http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html.

[xxi] The One-Child Policy violates at least four Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Specifically:

Article 5. "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Forced sterilization constitutes "torture" or "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

According to a statement by Congressman Christopher Smith, Pacific T. Kumar, Amnesty International's Advocacy Director for Asia and the Pacific, said acts perpetrated by certain population control officials in China amount to torture:

"Amnesty International is concerned at reports that forced abortion and sterilization have been carried out by or at the instigation of people acting in an official capacity, such as family planning officials, against women who are detained or forcibly taken from their homes to have the operation. Amnesty International considers that in these circumstances such actions amount to torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment," Kumar said. See, "Smith Shines Human Rights Spotlight on Coercion in China's One-Child Policy," [Online] Available
http://chrissmith.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=56952, December 14, 2004.

Article 12. "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence . . . Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." Coercive governmental control over the number and spacing of children is an "arbitrary interference with privacy [and] family." Destruction of the homes because of pregnancy is an "arbitrary interference with . . . home."

Article 16 (3). "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State." Forced abortion, forced sterilization, detention and the destruction of homes hardly constitute protection of the family by the State.

Article 25 (2). "Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same protection." The family planning regulation requiring the abortion of all children conceived out of wedlock violates the protection of children born out of wedlock. See endnote (i), above.

[xxii] For the text of the CEDAW, see http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm.

[xxiii] For the text of the Beijing Declaration, see
http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/declar.htm.

[xxiv] Pope John Paul II, "Address of the Holy Father John Paul II to the New Ambassador of New Zealand to the Holy See." May 25, 2000.


Additional Resources

Reports

Amnesty International 2008 China Report - http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/china/report-2008

Kumar, T. "Broken Promises: The 2008 Olympics and the Human Rights Situation in China." Amnesty International Testimony before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, United States Congress. July 22, 2008.

Kumar, T. "China One Child Policy and Human Rights." Amnesty International Testimony before the Committee on International Relations, United States Congress. December 14, 2004.

United States Department of State, 2007 China Report.
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100518.htm , March 11, 2008.

Websites

China Aid Association - http://chinaaid.org/

Laogai Research Foundation - http://www.laogai.org/news/index.php

Population Research Institute - http://www.pop.org/

Books

Laogai Research Foundation, Better Ten Graves Than One Extra Birth China's Systemic Use of Coercion to Meet Population Quotas. Hong Kong, 2004.

Mosher, Steven W. Population Control Real Costs, Illusory Benefits. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2008.

Mosher, Steven W. A Mother's Ordeal One Woman's Fight against China's One-Child Policy. Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993.

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