WASHINGTON — Marking the 31st anniversary of China’s one-child policy, the U.S. House of Representatives held its first hearing since 2009 on the coercive population-control mandate.
“The one-child-per-couple policy is the most egregious systematic attack on mothers ever,” said Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Human Rights Subcommittee, who hosted the hearing.
“Women bare the major brunt of the one-child policy — not only as mothers,” Smith said at the hearing. “Due to the male preference in China’s society and the limitation of the family size to one child, the policy has directly contributed to what is accurately described as ‘gendercide’ — the deliberate extermination of a girl, born or unborn, simply because she happens to be female. … It has been noted that the three most dangerous words in China today are: ‘It’s a girl!’”
U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, when recently in China, failed to say anything of the sort, instead publicly assuring that he would not be “second-guessing” the policy. A spokesman would later assure Americans, at least, that he considers the policy “repugnant.”
Smith opened the hearing by addressing Biden’s comments and issuing an open invitation to him to address the committee about “what actions, if any, the Obama administration is taking to end this barbaric policy.”
This isn’t simply a war of words among American politicians. Despite the “repugnant” clarification, the Obama administration has restored U.N. Population Fund funding after a George W. Bush administration hiatus. The UNFPA has been a support to China’s brutal policy. Smith has introduced the China Democracy Promotion Act of 2011, which would allow the president to deny Chinese government officials entry into the United States if they have participated in human-rights abuses, including coercive enforcement of the one-child policy.
At the hearing, an exiled Chinese human-rights activist, Liu Ping, recalled her horrific experience working in a textile factory in Tianjin in the 1980s.
“There was a system of collective punishment: If one worker violated the rules, all would be punished,” Liu testified. “Workers monitored each other. Women of reproductive age accounted for 60% of my factory floor. Colleagues were suspicious and hostile to each other because of the one-child policy. Two of my pregnancies were reported by my colleagues to the Family Planning Commission. When discovered, pregnant women would be dragged to undergo forced abortions — there simply was no other choice.
“We had no dignity as potential child-bearers. By order of the factory’s Family Planning Commission, every month during their menstrual period, women had to undress in front of the birth-planning doctor for examination. If anyone skipped the examination, she would be forced to take a pregnancy test at the hospital. We were allowed to collect a salary only after it was confirmed that we were not pregnant.”
While China has reported that its one-child policy has prevented 400 million births since 1980, it has been less forthcoming about the cultural practices that have arisen over decades of forced abortion, involuntary sterilization, infanticide and other brutal practices fueled by its demographic goals.
Reggie Littlejohn is president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, which released a new report in conjunction with the congressional hearing that documents 13 new cases of coercion. The cultural picture becomes clearer through testimonies detailing the impact of forced abortion and examination of photos of family-planning jail cells.
The Women’s Rights Without Frontiers’ report outlines the story of a man beaten to death because his son had a second child. Indeed, the one-child policy-enforcement practice of “implication” fuels violence against men as well as women, Littlejohn stressed during an interview after the hearing:
“Case Seven of our report gives the account of a couple with a second child in Henan Province. Family-planning police smashed the father in the head with a bottle. He is now permanently disabled. In Case 12, in Jiangsu Province, family-planning officials beat a farmer to death because his son was suspected of having an extra child. Recently, in Linyi County, Shandong Province, near where Chen Guangcheng lives, a
family-planning official murdered a man. They had come to seize his sister for a forced sterilization. Failing to find her, they started to beat their father. When the man defended his father, one of the officials plunged a knife in his heart, and he died.”
Meanwhile, China’s resulting gender imbalance — the state reports there are approximately 37 million more men than women — has raised fears of increased instability in China. While some researchers expect to see a rise in sex trafficking, as Chinese men search for a wife beyond their national borders, other experts fear that a growing cohort of unattached males threatens the nation’s social order.
Valerie Hudson, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University and co-author of Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population, argues that the gender imbalance could result in a surge of violent crime.
During the congressional hearing, Hudson predicted that “in the next two to three decades, we are likely to see observable security ramifications of the masculinization of China’s young-adult population, especially when combined with an understanding of the consequences of global aging, the particularities of Chinese nationalism, and the epidemiology of pandemics such as AIDS. Indeed, some of these ramifications are already coming into view. China’s contempt for its daughters may lead to a more dangerous world not only for the Chinese themselves, but for everyone.”
High Female Suicide Rate
Chai Ling, the Chinese democracy activist who helped lead the 1989 student protests in Tiananmen Square, spoke about the impact of her own abortions, which were mandated by the government policy.
“It is an insidious policy causing the society to immediately demand an abortion for any woman without a birth permit, married or not. To refuse would be illegal, but most unmarried women like me don’t even dare to ask and certainly don’t tell others about it, but silently suffer in a country with the highest female-suicide rate in the world, 500 woman a day, every day,” said Ling.
The activist acknowledged that the policy of coercive abortions is so routine she did not fully grapple with her own experience until she sat down to write her autobiography, to be released later this fall.
Now living in Massachusetts, she is the president of All Girls Allowed, which has launched a number of practical initiatives designed to help village families prepare to welcome a baby girl into their home, while raising awareness of China’s ongoing policy.
Ling ended her deeply personal testimony with a prayer from Isaiah and a plea to Chinese leadership: “You can still turn and end this policy and can start reshaping the culture of China to value all women, their choice and children’s lives.”
Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a nationally syndicated columnist.