Reggie Littlejohn in front of the UNCSW 61 banner. Credit: Fiona Basile
On March 23, WRWF hosted a panel discussion at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW). The panel was entitled, “Femicide, Trafficking and Reproductive Violence Agains Women and Girls.” Also featured on the panel were Arina Grossu of the Family Research Council and Rebecca Oas of C-FAM. Reggie Littlejohn delivered a condensed version of the following Remarks.
Forced Abortion and Gendercide Under
China’s Two-Child Policy
Remarks by Reggie Littlejohn
Femicide, Trafficking and Reproductive Violence
Against Women and Girls
Hosted by Women’s Rights Without Frontiers
United Nations Commission on the Status of Women
March 23, 2017
Honored guests, I would like to begin by thanking the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women for giving us the opportunity to dispel the major misconceptions that have arisen since China shifted from a One Child to a Two Child Policy at the beginning of 2016. While I have spoken many times at the UNCSW, this is the first time Women’s Rights Without Frontiers has been selected to host our own event. We must remember the millions of women, children and families whose lives have been destroyed and continue to be destroyed by coercive population control in China.
China Has “Prevented” 400 Million Lives through the One (now Two) Child Policy; 336 million abortions, 196 Million sterilizations
The Chinese Communist Party has boasted that it has “prevented” over 400 million lives. In March 2013, it revealed it has conducted more than half a billion birth control procedures, including 336 million abortions and 196 million sterilizations.
One statistic the CCP never discloses is how many of these abortions were forced. Of these 336 million abortions, how many women were dragged out of their homes, strapped to tables and forced to abort babies that they want, up to the ninth month of pregnancy? How many women died as a result of these violent procedures? And of these 336 million abortions, how many were selectively aborted because they were girls?
Another statistic the CCP never discloses is how many of the 196 million sterilizations were forced? In April of 2010, in Puning City, Guangdong Province, family planning officials set out to sterilize 9,559 people. Those who refused were detained, along with their family members. Forced sterilization is a crime against humanity.
Such large statistics boggle the mind and mask the hundreds of millions of individual broken lives caused by this brutal Policy, such as Feng Jianmei, who was forcibly aborted at seven months in June 2012. In February 2013 she gave an interview in which she said that her family was still being harassed by authorities. She had to relocate 600 miles from her family to get away from the painful memories.
Forced abortion and involuntary sterilization are violence against women. Women’s Rights Without Frontiers calls upon President Xi Jinping to end this state-sponsored crime against humanity. China will not be free until the women of China are free.
2016 Revealed China’s Annual Abortion Statistic is not 13 but 23 Million
According to the 2015 State Department China Human Rights Country Report, released in 2016, the estimated number of abortions in China has increased from 13 to 23 million a year. In the past, the Chinese government reported 13 million abortions a year. The 2015 State Department Report noted that according to official Chinese sources, “The number of abortions performed is believed to be higher,” because the statistics in the past were collected only from registered medical institutions and did not include abortions at unregistered clinics. The State Department Report states that an “official [Chinese] news media outlet” has reported that “at least an additional 10 million chemically induced abortions were performed in non-governmental facilities.”
Adding abortions at official and unofficial facilities results in 23 million abortions a year. 23 million abortions a year comes to 63,013 abortions a day, 2625 abortions an hour, 43 per minute. The United States population is about 320 million, with about 1 million abortions per year. The population of China is almost 1.4 billion, with about 23 million abortions per year. Therefore China, with four times the population of the United States, has 23 times the number of abortions.
According to the State Department Report, the Chinese government did not provide a statistic on how many of these abortions were forced.
Forced Abortion Continues Under China’s Two-Child Policy
2016 began with the deceptive announcement by the Chinese Communist Party that it had “abandoned” or “scrapped” the One Child Policy. This language is misleading, as it give the impression that forced abortion and coercive population control have ended in China. Nothing could be further from the truth. To the contrary, both forced abortion of unmarried women and of third children continues. Further, the sex-selective abortion of baby girls continues.
For example, a couple, surnamed Zhong, in August of this year were forced to choose between an abortion at eight months or the loss of both of their government jobs. In a separate incident, He Liping was forced either to pay an impossible “terror fine” of $39,000 or face abortion at six months.
A May 4, 2016, BBC article entitled ‘Reinventing China’s Abortion Police,’ discusses a small collaborative project by Stanford University and Shaanxi Normal University to repurpose 69 Family Planning Officials — apparently on the assumption that they are no longer needed now that China has moved to a two-child policy. In this article, a Chinese Communist Party official unwittingly admits that coercive population control continues in China.
The article follows one Family Planning Official, Li Bo, who has been “reinvented” from “hunt[ing] down families suspected of violating the country’s draconian rules on how many children couples can have” into a rubber duckie squeezing, nursery rhyme singing “Chinese Father Christmas,” complete with “a bag full of toys and picture books.”
Has his job really been “reinvented,” or is he really a member of the womb police, masquerading as “Chinese Father Christmas” — the new face of China’s Family Planning Police? Buried deep in the article is the following account of the dark side of Li Bo’s job – an important piece of original reporting by the BBC:
Since the start of 2016, all Chinese couples have been allowed two children. But they can have no more than that unless they are from ethnic minorities – so Li Bo still spends some of his time working as a birth-control enforcer. In the town’s health clinic he is busy screening local women. All women of childbearing age have check-ups four times a year to ensure they’re healthy . . . and to see if they are pregnant. . . But Li is also a loyal Communist party official who believes the state knows best and society’s needs are greater than those of individuals. So he is matter-of-fact about the unpleasant task of telling women who couldn’t afford the fine to terminate their pregnancies. “People didn’t swear at us but they probably did behind our backs,” he says. “It’s natural because we were carrying out the law and they were breaking it so it is just like the clash between a policeman and a thief.” He adds that as long as restrictions are in place, such clashes will continue.
From these words, uttered by a Chinese Communist Family Planning Official, we learn that:
- Coercive pregnancy screening continues. Under the Two-Child Policy, Family Planning Police continue to screen women of child-bearing age for illegal pregnancy four times a year.
- Forced abortion continues. It is still illegal for single women to have babies in China, and for couples to have third children. It appears that some may be given an opportunity to pay a fine, but Li Bo tells “those who couldn’t afford the fine to terminate their pregnancies.” In other words, if a woman is illegally pregnant and cannot pay the fine – which can be as much as ten times her annual salary – she is forced to abort. Forced abortion, therefore, continues under the Two-Child Policy.
- Women pregnant without permission are considered criminals. Li Bo’s statement that women who are pregnant without permission “were breaking it [the law] so it is just like the clash between a policeman and a thief” demonstrates that such pregnancies are still considered illegal; and illegally pregnant women are regarded lawbreakers deserving of punishment, just like thieves.
- Forced abortion continues to cause unrest. Li Bo is correct in adding that “as long as restrictions are in place, such clashes will continue.” This statement is an admission that these clashes – often resulting in forced abortion – continue to this day, due to the two-child restrictions.
In a triumph of investigative journalism, on October 28, 2016, the BBC has released a Report, “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.
In this Report, John Sudworth, the BBC’s Beijing Correspondent, interviews the father of a family in hiding because his wife has just given birth to their third child. The Report describes the man as “anxious and on edge, but still determined to tell his story.” The father told the BBC, “A third baby is not allowed, so we are renting a home away from our village. The local government carries out pregnancy examinations every three months. If we weren’t in hiding, they would have forced us to have an abortion.” (Emphasis added.)
The family was able to escape forced abortion by going into hiding, but when they come out, they will face a fine that could be as large as ten times their annual salary. “We don’t have the money for the fine. We just don’t know what to do,” the father told the BBC. He does not, however, regret his decision. “When I look at our new baby, I feel happy.”
Sudworth aimed to discover what the policy shift from one to two children per couple means in practice. “And what we have discovered,” he concludes, “suggests that the brutal machinery of enforcement is still in place along with the Chinese state’s insistence on the right of control over women’s wombs.”
This powerful report confirms what I have been saying all along: the new two-child policy will not end forced abortion. As blind activist Chen Guangcheng succinctly tweeted:
This [new two-child policy] is nothing to be happy about. First the #CCP would kill any baby after one. Now they will kill any baby after two. #ChinaOneChildPolicy
Under the Two-Child Policy, a woman’s body remains in the domain of the State. The entire infrastructure of coercion remains in force, with forced pregnancy examinations every three to six months.
My heart goes out to this family, compelled to go into hiding, becoming fugitives, all to avoid the forced abortion of their third child. They are caught between the joy of holding their new baby in their arms and the fear of what will happen to them when they come out of hiding, since they cannot pay the fine. Who knows whether they will lose their jobs as well, becoming destitute – all this to give birth to their children, which is a human right.
Sudworth also visited the local family planning center, where he asked a senior official whether forced abortions had been carried out in the operating rooms there. The official replied, “Very few,” and then added, none for “at least 10 years.”
Sudworth reflected, “Where else in the world would you find a government official admitting that his colleagues have kidnapped, drugged and forcibly operated on women, no matter how long ago? Where else would the qualifier ‘very few’ be considered an acceptable alternative to an outright denial?”
Sudworth’s colleague then called several family planning centers and spoke to officials at random. She pretended to be pregnant with her third child and asked how she might keep it. All the officials stated that she would have to pay a fine. Such fines can reach ten times a person’s annual income. Inability to pay such fines has led many women to abort a child they would otherwise want.
Beyond this, some of the officials went further, “engaging in coercive home visits with the aim of ‘persuading’ women to have abortions,” according to the BBC Report. One official told Sudworth’s colleague, “If you’re reported to us, then we’ll find you and we’ll persuade you not to give birth to that baby.” Another official said, “We’ll definitely find you and persuade you to do an abortion.” When asked if a woman could have a third child and then pay the fine, a third official stated, “No. You just can’t.”
The official’s statement, ‘If you’re reported to us . . .’ indicates that the system of informants remains under the two-child policy. ‘Illegally pregnant’ women have been reported to family planning police by their neighbors, co-workers, supervisors and people in their villages who are paid just to watch women to see if anyone looks pregnant. The official’s statement, ‘If you’re reported to us . . .’ indicates that this Orwellian system of informants remains in place under the two-child policy.
The statement by the officials, ‘. . . we’ll definitely find you and persuade you to do an abortion’ indicates that the Chinese government continues to conduct search and destroy missions, searching for ‘illegally pregnant’ women to destroy their desperately wanted babies. This happened to Feng Jianmei and Wujian, both of whom were dragged out of hiding and forcibly aborted. And what does the word ‘persuade’ mean here? Does it mean forcing a woman to ink her fingerprint on a consent document, like they did to Feng Jianmei?
I applaud the brilliant investigative journalism of John Sudworth and his colleague, and the courage of the BBC to publish his Report,” concluded Littlejohn. “It is extremely difficult to find people willing to speak to the western media about the continuation of forced abortion in China, because of harsh retaliation of the Chinese government against them personally and their families. The story of this courageous couple in hiding deserves to be told the world over. This is investigative reporting at its best.
At a March 8 event at The Heritage Foundation, commemorating International Women’s Day, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers was honored to present Yue Zhang. Ms. Zhang is heroic in her courageous determination to tell the world about the late-term forced abortion she suffered in 2014. She was forcibly aborted because she was unmarried. As you listen to her, please remember that it remains illegal in China today for an unmarried woman to have a child. Ms. Zhang also was given the “option” to pay an impossible fine. Please remember that the Chinese government today continues to present women with “terror fines” that can be many times their annual salary. When these women cannot pay, they are forced to abort. Some may go into hiding and give birth secretly. In this case, their child will lack household registration, or hukou. Without hukou, this child will have no official existence – will be ineligible for healthcare, education, will not be able officially to work or marry, will not be given a passport and so will not be able to travel.
Conditions Giving Rise to Gendercide Continue Under the Two-Child Policy
Moreover, gendercide continues. In the countryside, it has long been the case that where the first child is a girl, a couple may have a second child. Many couples have regarded this as their last chance to have a boy, and have selectively aborted or abandoned their second daughters. Sex-selective abortions have overwhelmingly been late term, because a woman has to be five to six months pregnant to determine the gender by ultrasound. In addition, many women resist having these ultrasounds until very late in the pregnancy, because they resist being pressured, usually by their in-laws, into aborting their daughters.
Now, according to an article from a Chinese news service published in January of this year, married couples are circumventing mainland Chinese law against sex determination tests for unborn children by employing genetic testing firms in Hong Kong.
The article features the story of a young woman who sent a sample of her blood to a Hong Kong-based testing firm. The day after receiving the report showing she was most likely pregnant with a girl child, she had an abortion.
We predicted last year that the increasing availability of non-invasive pregnancy tests (NIPTs) and the modified two-child policy would result in an increase, not a decrease, in sex-selective abortion. Second daughters remain endangered. The combination of son preference with the Chinese government’s coercive low birth limit has created a culture that oppresses females. The ripple effects of these biases and destructive policies are seen both in the highly skewed birth ratio between male and female babies, and the widespread practice of sex trafficking of women and girls as prostitutes or forced brides.
China’s Two-Child Policy is Social Control Masquerading as Population Control
Now, we read that the new two-child policy has failed to yield the baby boost expected to help allay the self-inflicted demographic disaster China inevitably faces. NBC News reported in January 2017 that the increase in births is substantially below the 20 million for which authorities had hoped.
There are many reasons Chinese couples are reluctant to have a second child, such as the fact that raising a child in China is expensive. So in February 2017, we read that China is considering paying couples to have a second child.
If China wants more babies so desperately that it is willing to pay couples to have a second child, then why is the government aborting single women and mothers of third children? Why doesn’t the government simply abandon all coercive birth limits?
It makes absolutely no demographic or economic sense for the Chinese government to continue to impose birth limitations of any sort whatsoever. China’s population problem is not that it has too many people. It’s that it has too few young people and too few women.
Nevertheless, the Chinese Communist Party has not agreed to get out of the bedrooms of the Chinese people. Women’s bodies remain in the domain of the state. Forced abortion is not a choice. It is official government rape. We need to keep the international pressure on the Chinese Communist Party until all coercive population control is eradicated. Modifying the One Child Policy into a Two Child Policy has not ended forced abortion, forced sterilization or gendercide. Coercive population control in China does not need to be modified. It needs to be abolished.
- The Secretary of State should investigate and evaluate UNFPA’s activities in China, and the President should de-fund them under the Kemp-Kasten Amendment. UNFPA has been found to be complicit with forced abortion in the past, and I have no doubt they will be again. I have long advocated for the defunding of UNFPA. The U.S. cut off funding to UNFPA in 2002 because an investigation, headed by then Secretary of State Colin Powell, found that UNFPA was complicit with the Chinese Family Planning officials in coercive implementation of China’s one-child policy. The Obama administration restored this funding. The UNCSW – as the advocate for women’s rights within the United Nations – should press relentlessly on the UNFPA to be fully transparent and accountable regarding its “family planning” activities in China. To the extent that the global community is funding the UNFPA, the blood of Chinese women and babies is on our hands.
- The U.S. President should utilize the Global Magnitsky Act to deny visas to perpetrators of forced abortion and freeze their US assets.
- Women’s Rights Without Frontiers has found our “Save a Girl” Campaign to be highly effective in saving the lives of baby girls in China and enabling mothers to keep their daughters. When our network in China learns of a woman who is being pressured to abort or abandon her baby girl, or whose family is so poor that her daughter is at risk, a fieldworker will go to her door and offer encouragement and practical support, saying, “Don’t abort or abandon your baby girl. She is a precious daughter and will bring you much joy! We will offer you monthly support for a year to enable you to keep your daughter.” We have saved hundreds of baby girls this way in our small area of China, and would encourage the Chinese government to implement such a program nationwide, to address China’s pressing gendercide issue.
Take action by signing WRWF’s petition against forced abortion in China.
Support WRWF’s Save a Girl Campaign.
Watch — Stop Forced Abortion – China’s War on Women! Video (4 mins)
The Heritage Foundation – Continued Coercion: China’s Two-Child Policy Threatens Human Rights and Prosperity 3/8/17
China Considers Baby Bonus for Couples to Have Second Child 2/28/17 http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/28/china/china-second-child-subsidy/
China Population Crisis: New Two-Child Policy Fails to Yield Major Gains 1/28/17
In Pursuit of Baby Boys, Families Send Samples to HK, Abort Baby Girls 1/17/17
Have China’s Missing Girls Actually Been There All Along? 1/9/17
China 2015 Human Rights Report (released in 2016), p. 55 (23 million abortions a year)
China’s Forbidden Babies Still an Issue 10/28/16
China: Forced Abortion at Six Months; Pregnant Women Told They “Deliberately Broke the Law” 8/28/16
Chinese Government Sources Admit Forced Abortion Continues Under Two-Child Policy 8/9/16 http://www.womensrightswithoutfrontiers.org/blog/chinese-government-sources-admit-forced-abortion-continues-under-two-child-policy/
Guangdong Families Told to Have Abortion or Lose Job 7/22/16 http://www.sixthtone.com/news/guangdong-families-told-have-abortion-or-lose-job
Reinventing China’s Abortion Police 5/4/16
Data reveal scale of China abortions 3/15/13
Mr. Vice President, Can You Second Guess Yourself on UNFPA Funding Now? 8/24/11
‘One Child’ Expert Urges Investigation Before UNFPA Funding Resumes 1/30/09
You Are Funding Forced Abortions in China 3/27/09
Family planning policy prevents 400 million births, Xinhua News Agency (11/9/06)