Continued Coercion: China’s Two-Child Policy Threatens Human Rights and Prosperity
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), co-Chairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, delivered the follow remarks this afternoon at the Heritage Foundation:
China’s population control policies are the longest-running and most far-reaching violations of human rights the world has ever seen.
Since 1979—first through the “one-child policy” and now through a “two-child policy”—the government of China has sanctioned state-sponsored violence and massive discrimination against women and children—particularly the girl child.
The Chinese government boasts that four hundred million Chinese children were “prevented” because of its efforts.
Let me put that number into perspective. The total number of people killed by various Communist and Fascists regimes in the 20th Century—Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Castro, and Pol Pot combine—is estimated to be around 100 million. (The Black Book of Communism, S. Courtois, 1997)
How many of these 400 million children of China were “prevented” through coerced abortions or sterilization? How many women were mocked, belittled, humiliated, and even hunted down because they were pregnant with a child the government did not permit?
In China, abortion has been used as a weapon of mass destruction. Hundreds of millions of lives have been exterminated.
So today, as we gather to assess China’s “Two-Child Policy” which replaced the hated “One-Child Policy” last year, we need to ask: has anything really changed?
In the last two years, as Chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, I held ten hearings, three that focused entirely on the consequences of China’s population control policies.
These hearings featured tireless advocates like Reggie Littlejohn and Chai Ling; world-renowned scholars such as Nicholas Eberstadt, Stephan Mosher, and Valerie Hudson; and the blind, self-taught lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who sacrificed so much to expose the brutality of China’s population control policies. He is a true hero. I know of no other person on Earth who has personally suffered so much for attempting to stop this cruelty to women.
The conclusions drawn from those hearings are that the “Two-Child Policy” should not be lauded because it does not change the basic structure of coercive population control in China.
The policy may allow for more births–demographers doubt that Chinese families will create a new baby boom–but the policy still violates international human rights norms.
Women in China still endure coercive pregnancy monitoring, fines, and the immense psychological burden of enforced birth limits. China is the only country in the world where the female suicide rate is higher than the male. Experts differ on the exact number—but estimates say that between 25 and 40 per cent more women kill themselves each year than men.
The new policy does not dismantle the brutal machinery of enforcement nor does it remove the pernicious incentives given to local officials to pressure mothers to abort a child if the birth hasn’t been approved by the state.
Instead of a “Two-Child Policy” maybe we should call the new policy “Coerced Abortion for Child #3 Policy.”
In October of last year the BBC released a report entitled “China’s Forbidden Babies Still An Issue” confirming that under the “Two-Child Policy,” forced abortion remains a threat for women pregnant with a third child.
BBC’s Beijing Correspondent John Sudworth interviewed the father of a family in hiding because his wife has just given birth to their third child. The father told Sudworth, “A third baby is not allowed. If we weren’t in hiding, they would have forced us to have an abortion.”
China’s Family Planning officials readily admit to Sudworth that all women of childbearing age are still required to report for up to two ultrasound examinations every year.
They freely discuss with Sudworth the massive “social compensation” fines levied on families that have a third child—up to ten times the annual average income.
They also admit that that any woman found to be pregnant with a third baby will receive “home visits” with the aim of "persuading" them to have abortions.
Said one official ominously: "If you're reported to us, then we'll find you and we'll persuade you not to give birth to that baby.” Another said more bluntly, "We'll definitely find you and persuade you to do an abortion."
Sudworth says that “where else in the world would you find government officials” admitting to coercing women to have abortions, particularly in a country where “women were kidnapped, drugged and forcibly operated on?”
At the end of the BBC report, Sudworth concludes that China’s population control policies have “bent and blurred the moral lines [so much that] state-sponsored violence seem unexceptional.”
How sad and how true.
I have held approximately 60 hearings that include discussions of China’s population control policies At many of these hearings I met with Chinese women who have been victimized by forced abortion. Their tears and the agony they have suffered still motivates me.
At one congressional hearing I chaired in 2009 for example, a Chinese college student named Wujian said that she was brought to a hospital against her will and testified that…
“as soon as I was taken out of the van, I saw hundreds of pregnant moms there, all of them just like pigs in the slaughterhouse…the room was full of moms who had just gone through a forced abortion. Some moms were crying. Some moms were screaming, and one mom was rolling on the floor in unbearable pain…then it was my turn …it was the end of the world for me…when the surgery was finished, the nurse showed me part of my baby’s bloody foot with her tweezers.”
The Chinese government is not the only one culpable in these heinous crimes experienced by Wujian and so many other women in China.
The U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) was complicit in China’s population control policies from the beginning. They did not only turn a blind eye to abuses, but helped facilitate and fund them.
The UNFPA funded birth restrictions, funded forced abortions, funded China’s coercive family planning bureaucracy. They also defended China’s actions.
Several years ago, I had a face-to-face meeting in Beijing with Peng Peiyun, the bureaucrat in charge of China’s population program. Madame Peng repeatedly told me that my concerns were unfounded and said proudly that the UNFPA found no coercion whatsoever. What a complete whitewash.
The UNFPA has covered up China’s crimes and continues to do so today despite overwhelming evidence.
The UNFPA justifies its history in China, saying that that their efforts have focused on getting China to adopt a “rights based approach” to family planning and saying they opposed “coercion, violence, forced abortion, and sterilization as a violation of basic human rights.”
Yet, there is no evidence to show their efforts made one bit of difference in changing China’s policies.
There is no evidence that UNFPA officials intervened to stop coercion and violence.
For the past three and half decades, UNFPA funding gave China’s policies an international stamp of approval.
The UNFPA is complicit in China’s coercive population control policies, but so are various U.S. Administrations and others who helped fund the UNFPA programs in China.
It is a dark and bloody stain that cannot be washed or wished away.
Since the early 1980s, I have authored legislation to defund the UNFPA and hold Chinese officials accountable for participating in population control.
In 1984, I authored the first amendment ever to a foreign aid bill to deny funding to organizations such as the UNFPA that are complicit with China’s forced abortion and involuntary sterilization policies. It passed. Jack Kemp and Senator Bob Kasten made it law.
The Kemp-Kasten Amendment today remains part of the foreign operations appropriations law.
Contrary to this law, the Obama Administration turned a blind eye to atrocities being committed in China, even contributing financial support to the UNFPA.
Unlike Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, President Obama provided over $227 million in taxpayer funds to the UNFPA.
There is no record to suggest that President Obama or his Administration ever raised the plight of Chinese women facing forced abortions, fines, and routine pregnancy testing.
In contrast to the Obama Administration’s silent acceptance of the coercion, suffering, and death Chinese citizens, I am heartened by the Trump Administration’s early action to reinstate and expand the Mexico City Policy.
The policy prevents foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from receiving U.S. federal grant money if they perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning overseas. It does not impact the level of funding available. Instead, it sets a standard for grantees to meet, requiring US dollars to be used for true humanitarian aid and not to subsidize the international abortion industry. President Trump has taken a courageous and compassionate stand. He has shown a commitment to protect the basic human rights both of mothers and of their unborn children.
There is also little record that the Obama Administration used available sanctions to deny U.S. visas to Chinese government officials or medical personnel complicit in forced abortion and involuntary sterilization.
In 2000, I wrote a law—the Admiral W. Nance and Meg Donovan Foreign Relations Authorization Act that included Section 801—requiring the Secretary of State is deny visas to any foreign national who was directly involved in the establishment or enforcement of foreign abortions.
Owing to a glaring lack of implementation, only a handful of abusers have ever been denied visas. Hopefully, the Trump Administration will do a better job.
The Chinese government says it instituted a “Two-Child Policy” to stem the demographic time bombs of a rapidly aging population, shrinking workforce, and millions of men unable to find wives, but it is increasingly clear the new policy will not solve these problems.
As the Economist has noted, by 2025, nearly 1 in 4 Chinese citizens will be over the age of 60. At the same time, China’s working-age population has shrunk in each of the past three years.
These factors are likely to hurt not only government balance sheets but also economic growth in China. This should be of particular concern to the Chinese Communist Party, as economic growth is the primary source of their ill begotten legitimacy.
The “Two-Child Policy” will do little to address the three-decade decimation of the female population.
By one recent estimate, there are 62 million ‘missing girls’ in China from sex-selective abortion and neglect. (Bongaarts/Guilmoto, “How Many Missing Women?” Population & Development Review, 2015)
China’s “One-Child Policy” and a cultural preference for boys created the conditions for what constitutes a gross human rights abuse—aptly described as gendercide—the extermination of millions of baby girls, just because she is a girl.
62 million is a staggering number. That is the entire population of England or Italy.
62 million missing girls. It is beyond comprehension. All that precious potential. Gone.
One of the many devastating consequences of female gendercide is the historic, unprecedented skewed male/female ratio. Chinese had 113 boys for every 100 girls—far above the natural sex ratio of birth of 105 boys per 100 girls.
Even if the sex ratio at birth were to normalize tomorrow, Catherine Tucker and Jennifer Van Hook, demographers with Pennsylvania State University’s Population Research Institute, calculated that fully 25 percent of working-age men (over 30 million men) in China would still lack a female counterpart in 2050.
The shortage of marriageable women has had other disturbing social implications. Tens of millions of excess men, uninvolved in family life and less tethered to social institutions, have contributed to government leaders’ fears of crime and instability. There has also been a spike in sex trafficking and bride buying. China has become the global magnet for human sex-traffickers.
I am the prime author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000—and three other anti-human trafficking laws—all of which established bold strategies that include sheltering, asylum and other protections for the victims, long jail sentences and asset confiscation for the traffickers, and tough sanctions for governments that fail to meet standards. I am deeply concerned that unless the Chinese government ends coercive abortion and gendercide, human sex trafficking will exponentially worsen in the foreseeable future.
China needs to recognize that its problem isn’t that it has too many innocent children. The problem is that the blood of innocents stains the hands of too many members of the Chinese Communist Party.
In the long line of Chinese Communist Party mistakes, the brutal enforcement of population control policies is the deadliest and most hated.
The international community, led by the U.S., must insist that China abolish all birth restrictions, dismantle its family planning apparatus, compensate the victims of forced abortions and sterilizations, raise the legal and inheritance status of girls, and permanently close a dark and deadly chapter in Chinese history.
By shining a light on what is happening in China we hope to move toward a world where every woman and girl is valued and deeply respected because of her intrinsic dignity, and where every child is welcomed regardless of his or her sex.