One-child policy a rights disaster

By Chris Smith  / 

Thu, Nov 19, 2009 - Page 8

She was dragged into a room to be forcibly aborted with “hundreds of pregnant moms … just like pigs in the slaughterhouse,” Wujian, a Chinese student in the US, told a congressional human rights commission in Washington on Nov. 10.

“He must speak up for us, for our lives, for our human rights. He must speak now,” she pleaded.

He — US President Barack Obama — was in Beijing this week for talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and other senior Chinese officials. Coming on the heels of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s infamous remark made en route to Beijing earlier this year, that human rights can’t “interfere” with US engagement on climate change or selling Treasury bills, the witnesses at the hearing expressed deeply held concerns that human rights in China — especially forced abortion — have been demoted, trivialized and dismissed by the Obama administration.

Through her tears, Wujian appealed to the president to speak with clarity and boldness for the women and children of China who, like herself, have been traumatized by China’s one-child-per-couple policy, which relies on forced abortion and forced sterilization to achieve its goals. Her appeal was echoed by several human rights activists and a world-renowned demographer.

Having become pregnant without a government “permit,” Wujian lived in hiding for months. Family planning cadres, unable to find her remote shack, beat her father almost to death. Still she refused to turn herself in. Eventually the cadres found her.

“The room was full of moms who had just gone through a forced abortion,” she remembered. “Some moms were crying, some moms were mourning, some moms were screaming and one mom was rolling on the floor with unbearable pain.”

The Chinese people are not docile in the face of government abuse. There are about 80,000 anti-government protests in China every year. Nor do the Chinese people accept the one-child policy. Women’s Rights in China (WRIC), a group of Chinese-American women established by Annie Jing Zhang (張菁) and Chai Ling (柴玲) — the famous students’ “general commander” at Tiananmen Square in 1989 — commissioned some courageous Chinese to collect new evidence on such hitherto murky events as a mass uprising in Guangxi Province.

When Guangxi cadres started a one-child policy crackdown in 2007, as many as 50,000 people rose up and destroyed half-a-dozen government buildings and beat several policemen to death. Male villagers smashed the homes of one-child policy personnel, while pregnant women hid in the mountains and along lake shores. It ended worse than you might expect.

Police and family planning cadres organized themselves into military formations and captured hundreds of farmers, surrounded villages, extracted fines by armed force, smashed homes, broke up families, confiscated farm animals and valuables, and took hostages. The captured women were bound, taken to the hospital and sterilized. Other women agreed to be sterilized in order to get their husbands, sons and fathers released from jail.

The one-child policy is enforced with the most ruthless measures, which have not abated in recent years, as the Chinese government would have us believe. Again, Wujian’s tale is emblematic. Struggling with a nurse, begging and weeping, she was told that cadres had performed more than 10,000 forced abortions in her small county that year. Her forced abortion over, Wujian, so traumatized she could not eat, speak or drink for days, returned home to nurse a father recovering from his beatings.

The message is unmistakable. Former longtime Chinese political prisoner and now activist Harry Wu (吳弘達) showed the commission photographs of banners hung across village streets: “Resistance to IUD [intrauterine device] insertion, sterilization and paying fines will cause the total destruction of your home and property! Destroy! Destroy! Destroy!” and “Resistance to sterilization will bring you nothing but detention; refusal to abort will lead to the destruction of your house and confiscation of your cattle.”

This policy affects every Chinese woman’s life. It invades her privacy, colors her experience of intimacy and motherhood with a sense of fear, humiliation, and powerlessness, and traumatizes her. As WRIC reported, family planning cadres require all women to maintain menstrual records and report every four months for crude breast-­uterine-labial checks — called “the three examinations.” The cadres are looking for indications of pregnancy or miscarriage, or removal of contraceptive rings — a serious crime. There are women who have removed their IUD rings living on boats in the Guangxi River, like hoboes or escaped criminals.

Thus the WHO reports more than 500 female suicides per day in China. It is the only country in the world where the female suicide rate is higher than the male — and it is three times higher.

“When I was writing this short testimony, several times I cried out,” Wujian said.

And so I — we — appeal to Obama: Seriously raise the plight of Chinese women who are every day cruelly and systematically assaulted by population control police. China’s population control policy is violence against women and violence against children — by the hundreds of millions. It is the worst violation of women’s rights in human history.

Chris Smith is serving his 29th year in the US House of Representatives and specializes in human rights issues. On Tuesday he chaired a hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.