Human Rights in China

Population Control Continues To Claim Victims

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By Father John Flynn, LC



ROME, JUNE 7, 2009 (Zenit.org).- China’s human rights record was once more the focus of attention as June 4 marked the 20th anniversary of the bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The mainstream media focused on civil and political rights, but the denial of the right of families to choose how many children they want continues to oppress many Chinese.

On May 7, LifeNews.com published a report detailing the findings of an undercover investigation by Colin Mason in China.

The fines for having an illegal child are now three to five times the family’s income, LifeNews reported. Not surprisingly, when couples are faced with the prospect of such a fine, many consent to either abortion or sterilization.

According to Mason, in Guangxi province babies born outside the government’s limits are taken into custody by government officials, who hold the infants until the parents are able to pay the huge fines.

On Feb. 15 the London-based Times newspaper reported that the government’s severe restrictions are provoking widespread protests.

According to the report, Chinese media and Internet commentators are breaking restrictions to report birth control abuses.

Among the abuses, the Times mentioned that women who already have one child face regular pregnancy tests, as well as pressure to be sterilized. The means used to oblige women range from financial penalties to the threat of being sacked from their jobs.

Forced abortion

One case the Times mentioned was that of Zhang Linla, who committed the error of becoming pregnant when she had already given birth to a a daughter. Just six days before the date she was due to give birth she was subjected to a forced abortion.

The article mentioned other examples involving forced sterilizations and live babies being left to die.

On Nov. 17 the Christian Post Web site reported on the case of Arzigul Tursun, a Muslim Uyghur woman who faced the threat of a forced abortion. At the time of the article she was more than six months pregnant and was being pressured by authorities to abort as she already had two children.

On Oct. 5 the South China Morning Post newspaper published a lengthy article chronicling the coercive measures faced by couples not obeying the strict family planning laws.

The article detailed the invasive nature of restrictions on families. Every married couple has to answer to the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC). Every village and every street in the cities are monitored by a family planning clinic controlled by the NPFPC.

According to the newspaper, there are officially 650,000 people employed to enforce the family planning laws. However, unofficial estimates say the real number is more than a million.

The South China Morning Post gave the example of Jin Yani, who was subjected to a forced abortion due to her contravention of the strict limits. The abortion was carried out in such a brutal manner that she was in danger of death and subsequently spent 44 days in hospital. As a result of what happened, she will never be able to conceive again.

According to the article, authorities are able to act without scrutiny in the rural areas and they employ brutal methods, including the destruction of houses and forced sterilizations.

The newspaper cited Mark Allison, East Asia researcher for Amnesty International, who said that forced abortions remain common.

Penalties

On May 22 the South China Morning Post reported that government authorities have renewed their determination to enforce strict family planning limits. Among the recent measures announced are the free distribution of contraceptives to migrant workers, and increased penalties for extra children.

Revised family planning regulations released by the State Council announced that fines levied on migrant workers who violated the one-child policy would be assessed based on what they could earn in the place they are working, rather than the income levels of their hometowns.

Setting the fine for breaking the family planning rule in the city where they are living in will result in higher penalties.

Incentives to follow official restrictions include extra holidays for those who wait until they are older to give birth, or who voluntarily undergo sterilization. Compliant couples will also receive preferential treatment from authorities when it comes to running their own businesses or receiving social relief.

Such restrictions go against what the majority of Chinese women want, as even government officials admit. According to a Jan. 16 report by the BBC, Chinese family planning officials say their research shows that 70% of women want to have two or more babies.

According to the BBC, the research was conducted in 2006, but has only been released now. Most women -- 83% -- want a son and a daughter, according to the survey.

Missing girls

Apart from the abuses committed by authorities, another grave problem is a dangerous gap in the numbers of boys and girls being born. A combination of the traditional preference for having at least one male child, plus the restrictions on births, means that millions of baby girls have been aborted.

According to an April 10 report by the Associated Press, the latest data reveals that China has 32 million more young men than young women.

The estimate comes from a report published in the British Medical Journal. Moreover, the imbalance is expected to worsen in coming years.

The study found that China has 119 male births for every 100 girls, compared with 107 to 100 for industrialized countries.

The study found that the biggest boy-girl imbalance is in the 1- to 4-year-old group -- meaning that China will have to face the effects of that when those children reach reproductive age in 15 to 20 years.

Even though the government has banned the use of ultrasound tests to determine the sex of a fetus, they are still commonly done.

The consequences of a girl shortage are already being experienced, as the Sunday Times reported May 31. The London-based newspaper chronicled the increasing level of kidnappings of young girls. The girls are kidnapped to eventually be brides for men in regions where there is a severe shortage of girls being born.

The article said that the public security ministry admits to between 2,000 and 3,000 children and young women being kidnapped each year, but local media put the figure as high as 20,000.

A Web site established for parents to put up details of their missing children has information from more than 2,000 families. The hopes of resolving these kidnappings are, however, faint. After two years the site has had only resolved seven cases successfully.

Essential principles

The anniversary of Tiananmen comes shortly after the United Nations commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer at the U.N. offices in Geneva, addressed the subject of human rights in a speech delivered Dec. 12.

“By speaking of the right to life, of respect for the family, of marriage as the union between a man and a woman, of freedom of religion and conscience, of the limits of the authority of the State before fundamental values and rights, nothing new or revolutionary is said,” he commented.

Human rights are not just entitlement to privileges, the Vatican representative pointed out. Unfortunately in China and other countries basic rights regarding the family are still not respected, a situation crying out to be rectified.