Congress examines China's coercive one-child policy
WASHINGTON (BP)--Congress heard testimony Nov. 10 regarding China's one-child policy, which employs widespread forced abortions and sterilization as population control methods, ahead of President Obama's trip to the communist nation.
Witnesses before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission noted that pregnancies in China must be authorized by the government. The hearing occurred two days before Obama left for Asia Nov. 12 to meet with Chinese officials.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of China's one-child policy, which was implemented to curb the birth rate of the world's most populous country. It limits women to one child, although exceptions are made, especially in some rural areas for couples whose first child is a girl. The policy has been enforced somewhat differently recently, the commission was told.
A measure codifying the policy, the Law of Population and Family Planning of the People's Republic of China, went into effect in 2002. The family planning officials "illegally" enforce the law through forced abortions and sterilizations, lawyer Jiang Tianyong said at the hearing. Jiang has been persecuted for defending human rights activists.
In its 2009 report issued in October, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China said, "'Termination of pregnancy' is explicitly required if a pregnancy does not conform with provincial population planning regulations in Anhui, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Hubei, Hunan, Jilin, Liaoning and Ningxia provinces."
All couples are required to apply for a birth permit before a pregnancy. If a couple has an unauthorized pregnancy, it must be terminated. After having the limited number of children -- one in most areas -- a spouse must be sterilized. Refusal results in forced sterilization. If the couple has more than one child, the woman will be forced to have an abortion, Harry Wu, director of Laogai Research Foundation, said at the hearing.
Families that abide by the law and get abortions receive a "One Child Parent Glory" certificate, something the government is using to "beautify" the policy, Annie Jing Zhang of Women's Rights in China told the commission.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a letter to Obama Nov. 10 regarding his trip to China. "The letter makes the point that you cannot engage in China ... without having very serious and candid dialogue about protection of human rights," USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo said at a news conference before the hearing.
Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., who chaired the commission hearing, said, "I believe the Chinese government would respond to the president if he were to take the lead in speaking up in defense of human rights in China."
Jiang appealed to Obama to speak to Chinese officials about reinstating his law license, which was revoked along with those of other attorneys earlier this year for defending human rights cases.
Smith criticized the Obama administration for its restoration of federal money for a United Nations agency that supports China's coercive family planning policy.
"It is outrageous that the Obama administration lavishly funds -- to the tune of $50 million -- organizations, including the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), that partner with China's National Population Planning Commission," Smith said.
The Chinese leadership, however, thinks the policy is a great accomplishment, because China's fertility level (1.7 live births per woman) is lower than replacement level, said Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute. Exclusive of immigration, 2.1 births per woman is the fertility level that ensures a non-declining population.
China's low birth rate means an age and gender crisis loom within the next two decades.
According to the most recent Chinese population survey, there are 120 males for every 100 females, Eberstadt testified. An ordinary human population ratio would consist of 105 males to 100 females, meaning -- by Chinese government estimates -- that by the year 2020 there will be 24 million more men than women. The result will be dim marriage prospects, contributing even more to the lack of child births.
The dearth of children also means China eventually will lose its comparative labor advantage to competing countries such as India and Bangladesh. Population projections show that by 2030, India will become the world's most populous country, with 1.53 billion citizens compared to China's 1.45 billion. On top of that, China's shrinking working-age population will have to shoulder an increasing workload (financial and otherwise) of caring for a massively elderly population.
Chinese demographers also predict that in 2025 there will be a generation of only children in China, Eberstadt said. These children will have no siblings, aunts, uncles or cousins.
"It's as if we're all going to be privileged to watch a sort of science-fiction movie that will be playing out on our watch. We have never seen anything like this before," said Eberstadt.
At the age of 35, Feng Junhua was in her ninth month of pregnancy when she was forced to have an abortion by family planning officials in June in Guan county of Shandong province. The injection that aborted the child caused hemorrhaging and killed Feng, according to the CECC report.
"We believe this is the worst women's rights violation in the history of the world. Forced abortion ... is a crime against humanity," Smith said.
Families or women who refuse to have an abortion are charged a hefty fine or get their homes destroyed by the government.
"They went to their home, took their valuables, their beds ... their tractors, their TV, their clothing. Those that don't have anything left, [they] took ... their children," Jing Zhang of Women's Rights in China said at the hearing. "The same method that was used in [the 1989] Tiananmen Square massacre now is being repeated in various, different villages."
More than 500 Chinese women commit suicide every day, according to worldhealthcare.org, Smith said. The suicide rate for women is three times higher than that of men.
"I don't think that this suicide rate is unconnected to the forced abortion in China," Reggie Littlejohn, an expert on the policy for Human Rights Without Frontiers, said at the news conference before the hearing.
"Abort it! Kill it! Terminate it! You cannot give birth to him or her!" is just one example of the several banners in the streets of China that the Family Planning Commission uses to promote the policy, Wu said in his written testimony.
Cindy Ortiz, a junior at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., is attending the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities' Washington Journalism Center this semester and serving as an intern with Baptist Press.