Thursday marks the 34th anniversary of China’s one child policy. On the occasion, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF) has released an Open Letter to President Xi Jinping condemning the coercive population control measure. The US-based rights organization says that the policy has caused incalculable suffering to hundreds of millions of Chinese women and families and that it is time for it to end. Women are frequently forced to abort up to the ninth month of pregnancy and sometimes die as a result of the procedures.
The Chinese government has claimed that the policy “prevented” more than 400 million births through this policy. WRWF says that these births have been prevented through forced abortions, involuntary sterilizations, confiscatory “terror fines,” gendercide and infanticide, all in violation of international human rights law.
WRWF President Reggie Littlejohn stated “The mayhem caused by China’s One Child Policy continues unabated and has taken some troubling new twists, with people being driven to mental breakdown, murder and suicide, as well as an obstetrician using her position of trust in order to traffic babies. The minor modification of the Policy that took place on January 1st of this year has failed to solve these problems. The One Child Policy does not need to be modified. It needs to be abolished.”
Because forced abortion policy is systematic, Littlejohn argues that it is institutionalized violence against women. And, due to the sheer numbers involved, she claims it is the most massive women’s rights issue in the world today.
The letter argues that the recent “reform” of the One Child Policy has done little or nothing to end coercive population control or sex selection and is in fact only a slight modification to the law.
Gender Imbalance Drives Human Trafficking, Sexual Slavery
There are about 37 million more men than women living in China. This gender imbalance drives further human rights violations such as human trafficking and sexual slavery.
In China, there are currently 117-118 boys born for every 100 girls born – the worst gender ratio in the world. This gender imbalance can only be achieved through gendercide, the sex-selective abortion of baby girls. Instituting a two-child policy will not end this practice. According to the 2009 British Medical Journal study of 2005 national census data, in nine Chinese provinces, for “second order births” where the first child is a girl, 160 boys were born for every 100 girls. In two provinces, Jiangsu and Anhui, for the second child, there were 190 boys for every hundred girls born.
In 2013, the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report discussed how China’s One Child Policy, combined with son preference, has caused a gender imbalance that is driving human trafficking and sexual slavery, not only within China but from the surrounding countries as well. The report says that China is ‘’a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.’’
There are many nations from which women and girls are trafficked into China, according to the report: “Women and children from neighboring Asian countries, including Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, Mongolia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as well as from Russia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas, are reportedly trafficked to China for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.”
The report found that the Chinese government’s efforts at prevention fell below minimum standards. In fact, the Report found that many state-run institutions were complicit in the trafficking: “The Chinese government did not demonstrate significant efforts to comprehensively prohibit and punish all forms of trafficking and to prosecute traffickers. The government continued to perpetuate human trafficking in at least 320 state-run institutions, while helping victims of human trafficking in only seven.”
The State Department in its 2013 report criticized the Chinese government for failing to “address the effects its birth limitation policy had in creating a gender imbalance and fueling trafficking, particularly through bride trafficking and forced marriage.”
China has not relaxed One Child Policy despite claims
To say that China has “relaxed” or “eased” its One Child Policy under these circumstances is entirely unwarranted, Littlejohn says.
She criticizes that the minor modification of the policy that took place on January 1st 2014 and says that it: 1) will not affect a large percentage of couples in China; 2) is not subject to a timetable in which to implement it; 3) retains the dreaded “birth intervals” between children (if a woman gets pregnant before the interval has lapsed, she may be subject to forced abortion); 4) makes no promise to end the coercive enforcement of the Policy; and 5) promises to continue the One Child Policy “over a long period of time” – which could be decades.
Allowing a relatively small number of families to have a second child will not end gendercide or sexual slavery in China, says Littlejohn. The selective abortion and abandonment of baby girls is most prevalent in the countryside, where couples already can have a second child if the first child is a girl. Even if the most recent modification were to improve gender ratios at birth, the impact on sexual slavery would not be felt for decades to come. Additionally, women from surrounding countries are often victims of deception, promised a better life with a good job, and then forced into sexual slavery.
Forced abortions linked to murder, suicide
In 2014, there has been a tragic rise in murder and suicide associated with the crushing “social compensation fees,” which can cost up to fourteen times a person’s annual salary, an amount the vast majority of Chinese citizens cannot afford. If the parents are unable to pay these “terror fines,” their children will be denied “hukou,” or household registration. Without hukou, children are ineligible for healthcare or education and become illegal aliens in their own land.
Disturbing reports related to the aftermath of forced abortions
The open letter also chronicles cruel and disturbing reports which have emerged from China over the past year, including:
- In Linyi City, Shandong Province, a student at Linyi University gave birth to a baby girl in a University lavatory, left her baby stuffed down the toilet pipe, and fled the scene. A reported commenter on social media site Weibo stated, “I find the image of a young woman giving birth in the loo, cleaning herself up and then going back to her room to carry on studying a particularly worrying one and a sign of the sort of throwaway society that we live in nowadays.”
- In Hunan Province, a husband demanded compensation from the Chinese government, claiming that his wife, Gong Qifeng, has suffered from schizophrenia and violent behavior since she was forced to abort at seven months in November 2011.
- In Shandong Province, Liu Xinwen was dragged out of her home in the middle of the night by 20 officials, who kicked down her door and restrained her husband. They forced her to abort at six months pregnant.
- Ai Guangdong, a farmer in Hebei Province, killed himself by drinking pesticide during a dispute with family planning officials over fines for his over-quota children. Since the farmer did not have money to pay the fines, family planning officials confiscated 3.5 tons of corn, the entire savings of the family. Ai Guangdong then visited the home of the Party Chief to dispute this action. Finally the farmer drank pesticide at the home of the Party Chief, and promptly died.
- In Xinjiang Province, four Uyghur women were forcibly aborted, one of them at nine months. As ethnic minorities, Uyghurs are supposedly exempt from the One Child Policy. This is not the case. While they may have more than one child, they are nevertheless subject to coercive termination of ”out-of-plan pregnancies.”
- An obstetrician in Shaanxi province, Zhang Shuxia, was convicted of trafficking seven infants, after she had convinced their parents that the infants were seriously ill or deceased. She was given a suspended death sentence. The doctor sold boys at a premium, costing more than twice as much as girls.
- In Guizhou Province, a farmer and father of four committed suicide because he could not afford to pay the fines to enroll his children in school. His wife stated, “He said to me before he cut his wrists, ‘What did we bring them into the world for, to be as dumb as cattle? I cannot see my children grow up uneducated.’” After his death, the authorities provided the family with a new house and money to educate the children.
The letter also criticizes the US State Department’s recent promotion of China from a ‘Tier 3’ to a ‘Tier 2 Watch List’ nation, likely based upon the technical modification of the One Child Policy, as baseless and unwarranted. China shared its Tier 3 status with Iran, Sudan and North Korea. Tier 3 nations may be subject to sanctions, if approved by the U.S. President.