Sometimes I forget that a place this beautiful is not necessarily paradise:
I’ve seen several articles recently noting that China may soon change its one child policy to a two child policy. Now, technically, some groups already are subject to a two-child policy. The one child policy has always applied mostly to the ethnic majority Han, and has often been enforced less stringently in rural areas. Many ethnic minorities have historically been allowed two children. Recently, married couples who are both single children are allowed to have two children in many areas. Lest you think that these changes are out of the kindness of their hearts, the government is trying to mitigate the demographic problems caused by their low birth rate. Their population is aging and officials are concerned about the declining ratio of working adults to retired adults.
If I lived in China, I would be happy for the change, obviously. Unfortunately, though, allowing one more child won’t fix the biggest problems with the one child policy. The real problems with the policy are the horrifying methods of enforcement, the high rates of abandonment and selective abortion of baby girls, and the occasional kidnapping of babies by family planning officials. Houses and property can be destroyed or confiscated as punishment for unauthorized pregnancies; relatives can be imprisoned to coerce abortion. Forced abortions, infanticide, and forced sterilizations are, by many accounts, common. Chinese government-reported figures claim 35,000 abortions a day. Many of those are forced. Often, these forced abortions occur near the end of pregnancy, and sometimes require killing the delivered child. Because family planning officials’ careers are dependent upon their provinces’ adherence to the official birth rate goals, some provinces have implemented concentrated campaigns of forced abortion and sterilizations.
In 1998, this heartbreaking testimony was brought before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee of International Operations and Human rights. It includes testimony from a former family planning official who defected from China in desperation; she could no longer perform the brutal requirements of her job. It also includes testimony from victims of the one child policy. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government does not look kindly upon criticism of its policies and enforcement. Chen Guangcheng, a blind self-taught lawyer, filed a class-action lawsuit on the behalf of thousands of women who underwent forced abortions in the Linyi municipality of Shangdong province. In retaliation, Chen was arrested and jailed for four years, then transferred to house arrest in which his wife and young child are under arrest as well. While Chen was under arrest, his wife was beaten several times, held under surveillance, and only allowed her to visit him three times. The government’s security teams do not allow internet, telephone, press, or visitors, but Chen made a short film which was somehow smuggled to the outside world. Following the release of the video, Chen and his wife were beaten so badly by security officials that they could not get out of bed and were not allowed medical care.
In our own political back yard, the United Nations Family Planning Fund (UNFPA) has strongly supported the one child policy, was instrumental in implementing the policy, and has repeatedly and publicly denied the abuses carried out in its implementation. Thankfully, in 1985, the U.S. House of Representatives and USAID eliminated funding for the UNFPA under the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, citing the abuses of the one child policy. However, in 1993, the Clinton administration reinterpreted the amendment and restored funding to the UNFPA. In 2002, the Kemp-Kasten Amendment was again invoked and U.S. funding ceased (saving the U.S. over $40,000,000 a year) until Barack Obama restored U.S. funding to the UNFPA in 2009. The UNFPA, understandably, is pleased, and praised his prompt action. As an American, I have no say in China’s policies. I am, however, horrified that our government financially and politically supports the forced abortion, sterilization, and brutalization of China’s citizens by its government.
Women’s Rights Without Frontiers has more information on the one child policy.