One Woman's Story
This past Wednesday, Chinese officials agreed to pay 70,600 Yuan ($11,067) in compensation to Feng Jianmei, a 23-year-old women who had her 7-month fetus forcibly aborted. Originally, the authorities demanded Feng and her husband, Deng Jiyuan, pay a 40,000-Yuan fine ($6,270) for violating the policy, but they could not afford to do so. Family planning officials then kidnapped her from her aunt’s house, threw her into a van, and took her to a hospital where a nurse injected a needle into her abdomen, killing her unborn child. Chinese authorities claim that two officials involved in the incident have been fired, and five others have been given warnings.
Although the gains seem small, this is in fact a momentous development in the history of the one child policy that can be owed to a sudden rallying of public support. Following the forced abortion, Feng’s relatives posted a photograph (WARNING: graphic image) showing Feng with her dead infant lying next to her in a hospital bed, catching the attention of people all over China. The case may mark the beginning of a newfound courage to speak out against the Communist Party’s violent enforcement of population control. However, for the family - who had initially intended on pressing charges - the settlement is a hollow victory, as no amount of money can bring their baby girl back.
Feng Jianmei and her family are only one of the more recent and widely publicized tales of persecution. Many have tried to share their experiences before her, but often their words fell on deaf ears. This time, a woman’s plea was finally heard.
On July 5th, 2012, after hearing the case of Feng Jianmei, the European Parliament passed a resolution, which “condemns the practice of forced abortions and sterilizations globally, especially in the context of the one child policy”. It noted that the one child policy violates the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to the International Conference on Population and Development Plan of Action, “couples and individuals” should be allowed “to make free, responsible and informed decisions about childbearing and to make available a full range of safe, effective and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, and any form of coercion has no part to play”.
In light of this encouraging development, on July 9th, 2012, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing to address the harm caused to families by China’s one child policy. The witnesses, who have all testified before the Committee on this issue several times, emphasized that, thanks to the recent escape human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, the world is now finally paying more attention to the abuses of the one child policy. (Click here to read the testimonies of witnesses Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF), T. Kumar, Director of Amnesty International USA, Steven Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute, Bob Fu, President of China Aid, and Guo Yanling, victim of the one child policy.)
Committee Chairman Rep. Smith (R-NJ) described the one child policy as China’s “33-year assault on women and children”, which “mocks, belittles, and humiliates” mothers forced to have abortions, and results in “broken women and dead babies”. Rep. Smith said that 500 Chinese women commit suicide per day and that the mental and emotional trauma caused by the one child policy is a major contributing factor. He also said that the policy has also led to a “skewed sex ratio, prostitution, human trafficking, and a shortage of wives” in China.
The final witness, Ms. Yanling Guo, gave her testimony via telephone from Bangkok, Thailand where they live in self-imposed exile. In 1995, when she was eight months pregnant, Guo too was kidnapped by family planning officials. She was dragged into a van, blindfolded, and gagged with a dirty rag. When they arrived at a hospital, she saw a large group of mothers crying in the corridor - all had lost their unborn children by forced abortion - as a result of the one child policy. Guo was taken to a room where a nurse felt for the position of her baby’s head before inserting a long needle into her abdomen. At this point in the testimony, Guo began sobbing deeply and wailing in mourning, almost as if she had lost her unborn child just yesterday. After recounting how a doctor had pulled the fetus out by hand and left it on a table beside her, Guo cried out “It was a baby boy…my son…” Ms. Guo was so fraught with grief that she was unable to finish her testimony. Guo’s husband concluded by saying, “Justice must be found for Chinese women,” while Guo’s cries were still audible in the background.
While the symptoms of emotional and psychological trauma displayed by victims affected by the one child policy should suffice as evidence that forced abortions do in fact occur in China, there is also physical evidence to prove that the one child policy is still in effect today and is destroying the lives of millions of mothers, fathers, and children. Since its establishment, the Laogai Research Foundation has been collecting official documents and files pertaining to the one child policy from all levels of the Chinese government. (Our summary report Human Rights Abuses Caused by the One Child Policy: As Seen from Official Documents can be downloaded here) Here are some of our findings:
If the U.S. Congress and Department of State are willing follow the European Parliament’s lead in voicing disapproval of the one child policy, we can work together to pressure the Chinese government to put a stop to these crimes against humanity. It remains to be seen whether the U.S. government will be willing to raise these issues with China’s leaders at every opportunity, not just quietly behind closed doors, but openly and assertively in the U.S.-China Economic and Security Dialogue.