At least 7,000 people in eastern China were forcibly sterilized earlier this year by officials under pressure to limit the growth of the country's massive population, Time magazine reported in an edition published yesterday.
Quoting lawyers who spoke to local family-planning officials, the magazine said that between March and July, 7,000 people underwent forced abortions and sterilizations in Yinan County, Shandong Province.
"They told me they were doing this for my own good. But they have ruined my life," Time quoted one woman as saying, who the magazine said had endured forced sterilization.
The magazine said that officials in Linyi City denied any improper program.
It further reported that the lawyers alleged that several villagers were beaten to death while under detention for trying to help family members avoid sterilization.
In March, the report said, distraught peasants had complained to a local legal activist, Chen Guangcheng, about the forced sterilizations and the detention of family members.
Many people in his village, he told Time, had been imprisoned for defying the sterilization order.
Chen, the report said, was placed under house arrest by mid-last month after he filed a class action against Linyi officials accusing them of contravening the national family-planning law.
"I know I'm at risk, but I cannot give up, because people are depending on me," Chen told the magazine.
China's population reached 1.3 billion earlier this year and the demographic explosion is putting pressure on already insufficient natural resources and jobs.
It is expected to increase by about 10 million people annually to reach a peak of 1.46 billion in the mid-2030s, state media quoted population experts as saying last year.
Beijing introduced its controversial one-child policy more than 25 years ago, and state officials have credited the program with delaying by four years the point at which the country's population hit the 1.3 billion mark.
But Time said that officials in the provinces have resorted to forced sterilizations and late-term abortions to keep the population in check.
The report said that career advancement for local leaders, especially in rural areas, often depends on keeping birthrates low.