China’s One Child Policy Turns 35 — Open Letter to Xi Jinping

Open Letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping:

September 25 marks the 35th anniversary of the official institution of China’s barbaric One Child Policy, which has caused incalculable suffering to hundreds of millions of women and families of China. On this somber anniversary, you are in Washington D.C. on an official state visit.

It is time for the coercive enforcement of the One Child Policy to end. It will not work to replace it by a ‘two-child policy’ as some of your advisors have suggested. Rather, official, state-sponsored forced abortion under the One Child Policy should be eradicated from the face of the earth, because it has caused more violence toward women and girls than any other official policy on earth, and any other official policy in the history of the world. Your government has boasted that it has “prevented” more than 400 million births through this policy. These births have been prevented through forced abortions, involuntary sterilizations, confiscatory “terror fines,” gendercide and infanticide – all in violation of international human rights law.

The One Child Policy causes more violence against women and girls than any other official policy on earth.

It is China’s war on women. Any discussion of women’s rights, or human rights, would be a charade if forced abortion in China is not front and center. It does not matter whether you are pro-life or pro-choice on this issue. No one supports forced abortion, because it is not a choice. A video exists in which former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, strongly condemns coercive family planning in China.

In the past year there has been much suffering caused by the One Child Policy. We are aware that the cases that make it to the West are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. For every family that posts their experience of heartbreak on the internet – and thereby risks persecution by the Chinese Communist Party — there are thousands or millions who suffer silently. A perusal of headlines over the past year will convey the scope of the suffering:

Gendercide: Baby Girl Rescued after She Was Flushed Down Toilet 8/6/15

Guizhou teacher almost forcibly aborted at 5 months – showing forced abortion still exists in China (in Chinese)
English Translation:

Population Control Has China Headed for Demographic Disaster Edward Pentin 5/19/15

“Why gendercide is the real ‘war on women’” by Reggie Littlejohn 11/14/14

“Chinese firm planned to punish employees who had unscheduled children.” 7/3/15

“Xinran – China’s 1CP breeds little emperors with skewed values.” 5/25/15

“Chinese Officials Forced to Meet Monthly ‘Abortion Quotas’” 6/12/15

“Why No One Wants to Talk About China’s Female Suicide Rate” 5/24/15

“China’s One Child Woes Being Felt Around Region” (Congressional Hearing 4/30/15)

“U.N. Complicit in Worldwide War on Women” 3/21/14

“The Ghost Children: In the wake of China’s one-child policy, a generation is lost” 3/13/15

“Activists: One-Child Policy Drives Some Chinese to US ‘Maternity Hotels’” 3/4/15

“Chinese Men Outnumber Women by 33 Million After Decades of Gender Bias” 1/22/15

“Chinese Mom Has Abortion Because Her Only Child Threatened Suicide If She Had Another Baby” 1/21/15

“Baby Girl Saved from Forced Abortion; Mom Hid from Chinese Officials for Months” 11/24/14

“They will kill your baby in your face” – Chinese Activist Chen Guangcheng 11/4/14

Cong. Chris Smith, Chen Guangcheng, Reggie Littlejohn Unite to Fight Forced Abortion and Gendercide in China – WRWF and Heritage Event 10/17/14

400 Million Lives “Prevented” through the One Child Policy, Chinese Offical Says 10/10/14

Human Rights Activist: China’s Regime ‘More Dangerous’ Than ISIS (exclusive interview with Chen) 10/10/14

Rep. Smith: Obama Gave 227M to UNFPA Implementing Forced Abortion in China (Includes video of Smith’s testimony) 10/10/15

Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and Marco Rubio Address China’s One Child Policy 9/29/14

China’s One Child Policy Causes Sexual Slavery

Gendercide under the One Child Policy has created a gender imbalance in which there are 37 to 40 million more men living in China than women. The One Child Policy is the driving force behind human trafficking and sexual slavery within China and throughout Asia and beyond.

Earlier this year, the United States Department of State issued its annual Trafficking in Persons (“TIP”) report, ranking China on the Tier 2 Watch List because it is a “source, destination and transit country” for trafficked persons, and because the Chinese government, “does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking . . .” The TIP report heavily implicates China’s One Child Policy in connection with China’s rampant sexual slavery problem:

“The Chinese government’s birth limitation policy and a cultural preference for sons create a skewed sex ratio of 117 boys to 100 girls in China, which may serve to increase the demand for prostitution and for foreign women as brides for Chinese men – both of which may be procured by force or coercion. Women and girls are recruited through marriage brokers and transported to China, where some are subjected to forced prostitution or forced labor.”

The TIP report describes the far reach of sex trafficking in China: “Women and children from neighboring Asian countries, including Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as well as from Africa and the Americas, are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in China.”

The TIP report recommends that the Chinese government “investigate, prosecute, and impose prison sentences on government officials who facilitate or are complicit in trafficking.”

The TIP report also raises concerns about the fact that “Chinese authorities continued to forcibly repatriate North Korean refugees by treating them as illegal economic migrants – despite reports that many North Korean female refugees in China were trafficking victims . . . [these repatriated refugees] may face severe punishment, even death.”

Why does the Chinese government turn a blind eye to officials who are complicit with or facilitate human trafficking and sexual slavery? Do they believe that sexual slavery is necessary because of the extreme gender imbalance they have created through the One Child Policy? Young women and girls escape the violent brutality of North Korea by slipping across the Chinese border, only to find themselves snapped up in the sex slave trade. These women and girls are utterly helpless. They can be beaten, raped and sold as prostitutes or forced brides, but there is nothing they can do about it. If they are able to escape from their captors and report their mistreatment to the Chinese authorities, they will be repatriated to North Korea, where they may be accused of treason and executed.

September 25, 2015 marks the 35th anniversary of China’s brutal One Child Policy: Congressional Hearing

To commemorate this somber event, on April 30, 2015, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China held a hearing entitled, “Population Control in China: State-Sponsored Violence Against Women and Children. Witnesses included celebrated blind activist Chen Guangcheng and notable demographer Nicholas Eberstadt. I also was humbled to testify, asked to comment upon “China’s insistence on keeping the One-Child Policy, despite looming demographic concerns.”
China has not “eased,” “relaxed” or “abandoned” the One-Child Policy, Despite Reports

China periodically tweaks its One Child Policy. These minor modifications are routinely exaggerated. For example, under the misleading headline, “China to Ease One-Child Policy,” Xinhua News Agency reported that China would lift the ban on a second child, if either parent is an only child, beginning on January 1, 2014. It was already the case that couples could have a second child if both parents were themselves only children. This minor adjustment did not “ease” the One Child Policy. It merely tweaked it.

Indeed, in apparent response to quell overly optimistic speculation that this small change represents a major reform, Xinhua ran another report soon after the original announcement: “Birth Policy Changes Are No Big Deal.” In this second article Xinhua states that Wang Pei’an, deputy director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), told Xinhua that “the number of couples covered by the new policy is not very large across the country.”

The minor modification of the policy that took place on January 1, 2014: 1) did not affect a large percentage of couples in China; 2) was not subject to a timetable in which to implement it; 3) retained the dreaded “birth intervals” between children (if a woman gets pregnant before the interval has lapsed, she risks forced abortion); and 4) makes no promise to end the coercive enforcement of the Policy.

Noticeably absent from the Chinese Communist party’s announcement is any mention of human rights. Even though it will now allow some couples to have a second child, China has not promised to end forced abortion, forced sterilization, or forced contraception. The coercive enforcement of China’s one-child policy is its core. Instituting a two-child policy in certain, limited circumstances will not end forced abortion or forced sterilization.

The problem with the one-child policy is not the number of children “allowed.” Rather, it is the fact that the CCP is telling women how many children they can have and then enforcing that limit through forced abortion and forced sterilization. Even if all couples were allowed two children, there is no guarantee that the CCP will cease their appalling methods of enforcement. Regardless of the number of children allowed, women who get pregnant without permission will still be dragged out of their homes, strapped down to tables, and forced to abort babies that they want.

Further, instituting a two-child policy will not end gendercide. Indeed, areas in which two children currently are allowed are especially vulnerable to gendercide. According to the 2009 British Medical Journal study of data from the 2005 national census, in nine 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. This study stated, “sex selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males.”
To say that China has “relaxed” or “eased” its One Child Policy under these circumstances is entirely unwarranted. Because of this gendercide, there are an estimated 37 million Chinese men who will never marry because their future wives were terminated before they were born. This gender imbalance is a powerful, driving force behind trafficking in women and sexual slavery, not only in China, but in neighboring nations as well. Millions of baby girls all over China are at risk of abortion or abandonment, simply because they are girls.

In China, there are currently 117-118 boys born for every 100 girls born – the worst gender ratio in the world. Nor will the tweaking of the One Child Policy have a significant impact on gendercide. This message was at the core of my presentation at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in March, 2014.
Furthermore, all the reasons the Chinese government has given for this adjustment are economic or demographic: China’s dwindling labor force, the country’s growing elderly population, and the severe gender imbalance. The adjustment is a tacit acknowledgement that continuation of the one-child policy will lead to economic and demographic disaster. The policy was originally instituted for economic reasons. It is ironic that through this very policy, China has written its own economic, demographic death sentence.

Even if China were to completely abandon the One Child Policy and all population control now, demographers worry that it might be too little, too late to avert the demographic disaster it has caused. As one researcher stated, “Even if the family- planning policy were terminated today, it would be too late to solve our rapidly ageing population, the drastic shrinkage of the labour force and the gaping hole in social-security funds that the country has already begun struggling with.”

Despite the demographic pressure to end the policy, the Chinese government recently denied that it has plans to implement a two-child policy in the near future.

Continuing the One Child Policy makes no demographic sense. China’s population problem is not that it has too many people, but too few young people and too few women. Limiting births can no longer justify the policy.

The One Child Policy turne 35 today, September 25, 2015. The fertility rate has fallen to approximately 1.5 children per woman, far below the replacement level of 2.1. These birth rates are dangerously low.

In addition, the most recent modification of the One Child Policy has failed to produce the expected number of births, as couples are self-limiting the size of their families. Why, then, does the Chinese Communist Party keep the One Child Policy?

1) In my opinion, the Chinese Communist Party will never abolish the One- Child Policy, because the government is exploiting the One Child Policy as social control, masquerading as population control.

The One Child Policy was formally instituted on September 25, 1980 in response to the population explosion under the Mao era, when the average fertility was 5.9 children per woman. The One Child Policy began as a means to control the population, however brutal and misguided. The terror of forced abortion and involuntary sterilization was a by-product of the Policy.

Now that keeping the Policy makes no demographic sense, I believe that terror is the purpose of the Policy. Forced abortion continues in China, terrifying both women and men. Some of these forced abortions have been so violent that the women themselves sometimes have died along with their full term babies. Forced abortion is so terrifying that victims have succumbed to mental illness and China’s female suicide rate is epidemic and increasing.

Men also are terrorized. Some have been killed or maimed for life. Others have lost control and murdered family planning officials. Some men have resorted to suicide in protest over the excessive fines imposed by the government. The spirit of the Cultural Revolution lives on in the family planning police, who have been able to steal, intimidate, torture and kill with relative impunity.

The Chinese Communist Party is a brutal, totalitarian regime. It has many human rights abuses: the detention and torture of human rights lawyers, activists and journalists; religious persecution, the execution of prisoners to harvest their organs for transplant. However egregious, each of these abuses touches only a sliver of Chinese society. The One Child Policy is unique in that it touches everyone.

2) The One Child Policy Is Enormously Profitable for the Chinese Communist Party.

The One Child Policy’s system of fees and fines is an important source of revenue for the Chinese Communist Party. These fines are arbitrary and inconsistently applied throughout China, but may be as much as ten times a person’s annual salary. Very few can afford to pay these “terror fines.” In high profile cases, the fines may run in the millions of dollars.

It has been estimated that the Chinese Communist Party has received as much as $314 billion in family planning fines since 1980. The use of these fines is not subject to accountability, so they may be used simply to line the pockets of the family planning officials or to fund other government projects under the table. This system (or lack thereof) provides a strong incentive to keep the Policy in place.

3) The One Child Policy’s Infrastructure of Coercion Can Be Turned to Crush Dissent of Any Kind

There is growing unrest inside China. “[I]nternal Chinese law enforcement data on so- called “mass incidents” – a wide variety of protests ranging from sit-ins to strikes, marches and rallies, and even genuine riots – indicated that China has seen a sustained, rapid increase in those incidents from 8,700 in 1993 to nearly 60,000 in 2003, to more than 120,000 in 2008. Meanwhile, there are as many as 1 million Family Planning Officials. This army of Family Planning Officials can be turned in any direction to crush dissent of any sort. Does the Chinese Communist Party regard this army as necessary to maintain control in a tinder-box situation?

4) The One Child Policy Breaks Bonds of Trust, Discouraging Dissent

In addition to official Family Planning Police, the One Child Policy employs a system of paid informants – “womb police.” Anyone can inform on an illegally pregnant women – her neighbors, friends, co-workers, people in the village who watch women’s abdomens to see who might be pregnant. On May 15, 2012, I testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, together with Mei Shunping, a victim of five forced abortions. She described the way her factory enforced the One Child Policy. “If one worker violated the rules, all would be punished. Workers monitored each other.” The women became informed on one another. Predictably, friendships were destroyed.
In addition, if an illegally pregnant women runs away to escape a forced abortion, members of her extended family may be detained and tortured. This puts enormous pressure on the woman to give herself up for an abortion. The system of paid informants and the persecution of family members and neighbors rupture the natural bonds of love and trust in Chinese society. People feel that there is no one they can trust.

Could the Chinese Communist Party be exploiting this rupture in relationship to divide and conquer? If people cannot trust anyone, they cannot organize for democracy.

The “Agreed Conclusions” of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) Condemn Coercive Family Planning

The UNCSW’s topic for 2013 was “Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls.” There is no greater violence against women than forced abortion, up to the ninth month of pregnancy. Women themselves sometimes die as a result of these violent procedures. There is no greater violence against girls than gendercide, which has claimed up to 200 million lives of girls selected for abortion solely because they are girls.

Women’s Rights Without Frontiers was honored to make four presentations about forced abortion and gendercide in China at the UNCSW in March of last year. We commend the following language from 2013’s “Agreed Conclusions”:

34. The Commission urges government, at all levels, and as appropriate, with the relevant entities of the United Nations system, international and regional organizations . . . to take the following actions:
. . . .
(aaa) Condemn and take action to prevent violence against women and girls in health-care settings, including . . . forced medical procedures, or those conducted without informed consent, and which may be irreversible, such as forced hysterectomy, forced caesarean section, forced sterilization, forced abortion, and forced use of contraceptives . . .

These Agreed Conclusions represent an acknowledgement that forced medical procedures are a form of violence against women and call for an international condemnation of such procedures. WRWF feels that the voices of hundreds of millions of suffering Chinese women and girls were heard by the UNCSW, and for this we are grateful.

Forced Abortion in China Is Linked to Breast Cancer in Women and Low Birth Weight, Increased Chance of Death in Subsequent Pregnancies.
A medical study from Tianjin, China has revealed an additional way in which women are victimized by the One-Child Policy: significantly increased risk of breast cancer.
Researchers in China have found that the dramatic rise in breast cancer in China is associated with the prevalence of induced abortions (IA) under the One-Child Policy. The study, conducted by a team of epidemiologists from Tianjin Medical University Cancer Hospital, analyzed data from over 36 different studies in both the United States and China. Their conclusion:
“IA [is] significantly associated with an increased risk of breast cancer among Chinese females, and the risk of breast cancer increases as the number of IA increases.” Specifically, the study found that one IA increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 44 percent, two by 76 percent, and three by 89 percent.
The study notes that historically, China has had low breast cancer rates when compared with Western nations, but “the incidence of breast cancer in China ha[s] increased at an alarming rate over the past two decades.” The study notes that this rise “was paralleled to the one-child-per-family policy.”
In our view, the strong association of abortion and breast cancer established by this study brings the women’s rights violations under the One Child Policy to a new level: a woman pregnant in China without a birth permit is subjected to both government imposed forced abortion, and also breast cancer as a result of it. Where abortion is forced, the subsequent development of breast cancer becomes a violation of women’s rights in itself.

“China:One-Child Policy Linked to Breast Cancer – Study.” 12/2/13

Forced Abortion in China Correlates with Low Birth Weight, Increased Chance of Death in Subsequent Pregnancies

A 2012 dissertation submitted to the University of Hong Kong found that children in China are more likely to face serious health complications, including death, if their mothers have had multiple induced abortions. The study concluded that having more than one abortion increases the risk of low birth weight in subsequent pregnancies. Indeed, women who have had three or more induced abortions are at five times the risk of preterm birth in a subsequent pregnancy.
The study, conducted by Cui Limin, explained that nearly two thirds of neonatal deaths are related to low birth weight. For children surviving infancy, LBW increases the risk of neuron-developmental problems, respiratory tract infections, and behavioral problems. According to the study, those with very LBW suffer from conditions including cerebral palsy, blindness, impaired hearing and learning disabilities. Besides harming the child, these health problems put extra financial strain on parents, the study noted.
Women in China are forced into induced-labor abortions, up to the ninth month of pregnancy. In our view, this is a violation of women’s rights of the first degree. We are now learning that these forced abortions also put their future children at risk for respiratory complications, cerebral palsy, and even death related to low birth weight. They also may damage a woman’s future reproductive and general health. This is a violation of the women’s rights and the rights of their future children. Forced abortion must be stopped, and families should be compensated if their children experience health problems caused by previous induced labor forced abortions.
According to the study, 14.37 million induced abortions were performed in 2012 – one quarter of the abortions in the world — many of which were repeat abortions. The study credited the One-Child Policy as “one of the most important factors for the increased induced abortion rate,” and cited the prevalence of forced and sex-selective abortions in China.”


The Chinese forced abortion policy is systematic, institutionalized violence against women. Because of the sheer numbers involved, it is the most massive women’s rights issue in the world today, and it must be stopped. Forced abortion is official government rape.

In my opinion, the Chinese Communist Party will not relinquish coercive population control because 1) it enables them to exert social control through terror; 2) it is a lucrative profit center; 3) it provides an infrastructure of coercion that can be used to crush dissent of any sort; and 4) it ruptures relationships of trust, so that people cannot organize for change. I believe that the Chinese Communist Party is maintaining its grip on power by shedding the blood of the innocent women and babies of China.

China’s One Child Policy is the largest and most disastrous social experiment in the history of the world. Through it, the Chinese Communist Party boasts that it has “prevented” 400 million births. This is the hallmark of Communist regimes – the peacetime killing of their own citizens. Now China faces demographic disaster. Ironically, the Chinese Communist Party instituted the One Child Policy for economic reasons, but through it, it has written its own economic death sentence.

Policy Recommendations:

We respectfully request that the Chinese government:

*Abolish forced abortion and all forms of coercive population control;

*Offer incentives for couples to have girls;

*Offer pensions to couples who do not have a son, ensuring that parents of girls will not become impoverished in their old age; and

*Abolish the hukou system, so that all children will have access to healthcare and education

President Xi Jinping, you are uniquely positioned to end the greatest human rights atrocity on earth today. Since you are able to accomplish this, you are morally obligated to do so. Let this be the legacy of your presidency: to transform Chinese law and culture so that women can truly “hold up half the sky.”


Reggie Littlejohn, President
Women’s Rights Without Frontiers
Stop Forced Abortion – China’s War on Women! Video (4 mins)

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