Author: Jing Zhang Translantor: Jennifer Yuan
Women’s Rights in China Director Jing Zhang was invited to give a speech at the conference “The Prospects for Democratization in China” organized by The China Democracy Forum, New York University (NYU) and Beijing Spring magazine. The theme of the conference was “The Match between Righteousness and Evil, The Responsibility and Choice of International Society”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s earliest population policy began in April, 1950. There was a lack of military personnel after the long war and the workforce in society had shrunk. The Central Government and the Military Committee joined hands in formulating the “Methods of Limiting Abortion Among Female Military Cadres,” imposing strict requirements on women who required abortions: it had to be approved by the husband, doctor, and the Head of their unit. Those who secretly underwent abortion were harshly punished.
A few years later, the CCP leaders, who had no foresight at all, again adjusted the population policy, making opposite regulations. In 1979, they implemented a nation-wide One-Child Policy, and this was the beginning of the tragic fate of women in China. Afterwards, the CCP obtained comprehensive control over the uteruses of China’s women, setting rules about when they needed to get an Intrauterine Device (IUD) and when they needed to be sterilized. The Party gained control over the private lives of couples, regulating when they can get pregnant, when they can give birth…everything is decided by the Party. This is unprecedented in history, the one and only in the world, a true Chinese specialty. The CCP’s propaganda machine always claims that China is about to explode, so it cannot further develop unless it enforces population control. Yet, China’s neighbor India, which is also in Asia, has a huge population, but has not implemented coercive birth planning, and has not exploded. Instead, it seems to be developing steadily, with an economic growth rate even surpassing China in the 2nd quarter of 2015/16 （source: CNBC http://www.cnbc.com/2015/11/30/india-economic-growth-outpaces-china-rbi-seen-holding-rates.html India economic growth outpaces China, RBI seen holding rates）.
From the following points, we can see that whatever changes are made to the population policy the CCP formulates, it will be irrelevant to human rights, and the policy of planned murders are still being executed. No matter how big of a giant China’s economy becomes, it is still a dwarf in the aspect of universal values.
- Permission and Authorization to Give Birth are both Violations of Human Rights
After coercively enforcing a One-Child Policy and continuously harming women and children in China for 36 years, CCP leaders proclaimed a new directive in the 18th Central Committee: a Two-Child Policy would be launched throughout the nation, whereby residents are allowed to have two children.
Of course, if someone dares to go against the policy and have a third child, the consequences are the same as the old policy: forced abortion or fines, because these coercive policies are still being implemented and have not been cancelled. That means, the Party still has control over women’s uterus and still restricts the natural rights of couples to have children. Heavy fines which leave civilians penniless and their families in ruins are still collected. This birth planning policy is like a sword hanging over people’s heads, ready to slash down at anytime. This Party has kept its clutches over the uterus of Chinese women like in the 50s in ring the previous century. When the Party tells you to have babies, you have to produce some; when it tells you not to, you must stop. It gives you the number of children you should have, and you must follow. Having fewer children would have resulted in harsh punishment, and now having too many will lead to forced abortion or fines! The power of determining the life and death of new lives has been held by a few men in the leadership level of the CCP.
During the CCP’s 36-year era of implementing a One-Child Policy, forced abortion and fines were guidelines for the Birth Planning cadres. It was not uncommon for civilians to be subject to economic sanctions, violation of rights through physical force, unlawful detention, assault and even destruction of property and loss of family. Some couples with “over-quota” births were persecuted and were forced to hide in different places, even escaping to other countries to seek political asylum. Women’s Rights in China (WRIC) volunteers Su Changlan, Yao Cheng, Chen Qitang etc. spoke out for farmer Zhang Ronghua(See below: Zhang Ronghua was with her husband, daughter ), who was killed with her baby in a forced abortion in Lijin County, Shandong Province.
WRIC volunteers also saved Cao Ruyi and the life of her little baby, who were almost forced to undergo abortion in an obstetric bed in Changsha, Hunan. These volunteers who demonstrated such humanitarian spirit have all been arbitrarily detained by the Chinese government. Among them, Su Changlan and Chen Qitang have already been imprisoned for 2 years without being sentenced, and are prohibited from medical parole.
The Chinese government always claims that the Birth Planning Policy led to a great decline in the death rates of pregnant women and infants, but this is just a lie that becomes more pronounced as they try to cover it up. In fact, the government’s statistics only include licensed hospitals. Its lack of truthfulness lies in the fact that a significant number of women with over-quota births have to avoid the fine and don’t have birth permits, so can only deliver in unlicensed hospitals or at home, especially villagers and pregnant girls that are under age. There are a large number of cases in which both mother and infant die due to miscarriage or infection through unhygienic abortion equipment, leading to massive hemorrhage etc., and they are not included in government statistics. Also excluded are pregnant women living in remote mountainous areas or ethnic minorities who die because they couldn’t get hospitalized in time during emergency situations due to underdeveloped transportation and medical systems. Once women and their families have more children than permitted by the government, they have to pay fines consisting of heavy Social Childcare Fees, or they put themselves in jeopardy and deliver under the risk of having no medical facilities, which is a match with the grim reaper. Two years ago in Liupanshui area in Guizhou, a migrant worker secretly returned to her hometown to deliver her second child, but had a massive hemorrhage. The midwife couldn’t stop it and both mother and child died.
On September 27, 2016, the Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission published a shocking statistic: half a year after the national launch of the Two-Child Policy, the death rate of pregnant women has risen: in the first half of 2016, the death rate of pregnant women in the nation has increased by 30.6% when compared to the same time period last year. The Commission has to admit that “there are serious issues in protecting the safety of mothers and newborn babies.” Yet the Deputy Head of the Commission blames it on other factors: increase in births, higher proportion of older mothers, high costs and risks in Obstetrics & Gynecology and pediatrics, medical personnel consisting of more young women who have their own reproductive needs, and a lack of human resources. They are taking the branch for the root! We must ask: didn’t the government think about these practical problems that must be dealt with and solved before they decided to launch the Two-Child Policy? Did the government allocate funding for vocational training programs? Are relevant units and staff held accountable for cases of death? Why is there a higher proportion of older mothers? What responsibilities should the government take for implementing a coercive One-Child policy for the past decades? One conclusion we can make is that, as long as the government enforces a coercive birth planning policy, no matter one child or two are permitted, Chinese women still have no freedom in guarding their own uterus, death and harm is forever their nightmare, and the government will keep shifting their responsibility.
- Coercive Fines are a Cash Cow for Rulers
Since the 1980s, medical information and data related to Birth Planning have been labeled as state secret, and even became one of the top national secrets in the end of the 80s. Birth Planning fines have remained a mystery for the past 40 years.
The government has never publicized where these fines ended up, and no auditing agency has the right to publish this financial report. According to incomplete statistics (consisting only of 22 provinces), the total amount of fines in 2012 was 16.8 billion, but strangely, this huge amount has been kept safe and hasn’t become a concern to the media. Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaigns these few years have not resulted in any “tigers” or “flies” being caught for mishandling or embezzling birth planning fines.
In 2013, the National Health Bureau was combined with the Family Planning Committee and became the National Health and Family Planning Commission. The Head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission directly oversees the new commission, which is a merge of the two major systems in China. The other agency directly headed by the government and funded by it, i.e. the Family Planning Association, with 94 million full-time and part-time workers (statistics from its official website), has taken over a majority of the functions of the original Family Planning Committee. The Family Planning Association’s largest funding from the government in 2015, is used for the 94 million staff from the previous Family Planning Committee to directly manage the birth planning of the 250 million farmers in all large cities in the nation, i.e. monitoring and coercing migrant workers to carry out the CCP’s harsh birth planning policy. The government’s policy for fines has not changed. That means that when the nation needed youths, peasants produced children even during hard times, and raised them up to become society’s strong labor force, but they received no rewards and social welfare from the government, and instead now have to pay fines to the government for over-quota births. If the timing between their first and second pregnancies doesn’t follow the government’s regulations, if they have children out of wedlock, or get pregnant before getting married, they all have to be fined.
The CCP’s policy of fines has never been lenient, and continues to lead to tragedies and deaths, destruction of families, and continues to trample over the freedom and rights of Chinese women and children to live and give life.
- Coercive Birth Planning Brings Endless Troubles to China
China’s Coercive Birth Planning Policy has brought obvious disasters. Besides the infamous human rights disaster, there are also a series of social problems like serious gender imbalance and a rapidly aging population.
- Serious Imbalance in Population Structure
During the era when birth planning was implemented harshly, some families killed or abandoned female infants to keep the quota of having a boy to meet the nation’s regulations. Chinese scholars state that the current gender ratio of newborn infants is 118:100. In 2000, the ratio in Hainan Province reached 135.64:100. WRIC launched activities in Erlang Town, Susong County, Anhui Province, and an elementary school teacher told us that there were 57 students in her class, but only 16 were girls. We conducted a study on the gender ratio in two villages in 2010 and 2011, and the average ratio was 145:100 and 135:100. Scholars warn that there will be 40 million single men. When 2050 arrives, there will be 100 million men that don’t have wives to marry. The gender ratio has been continuously high for many years. This not only destroys the population structure, it also leads to many social problems such as an increase in crime rate. According to scholars, the Chinese government will greatly increase conscription to solve the problem of single men, but this will be a potential security threat to countries nearby.
- Aging problems hinder economic development
In his book Empty Nest of the Great Nation, population studies expert Fuxian Yi criticizes the Chinese government’s birth planning policy. This book was banned in China. Yi determined that “the nature of China’s economic crisis is its population crisis.” Currently, the elderly population over 60 years old in China has surpassed 212 million, comprising 15.5% of the total population. According to forecasts, around 2040, China’s elderly population will reach its peak and will exceed 400 million, that means there 1 out of 3 people will be an elderly. In an aging society, there is a serious inadequacy of robust labor, hindering economic development. The Empty Nest phenomenon and aging population will intensify a series of social problems and become a heavier burden.
After a decade of an extremely low birth rate, it is a proven fact that even if a Two-Child Policy is launched, the situation cannot be saved: unlike experts’ expectations, youths in China lack the intention of having a second child. Eight government departments in Yichang City, Hubei, released a document calling for all Communist Party and Youth League members in government agencies and corporate units to take the lead in producing a second child, proclaiming that “one child poses risks, two children are great.” We don’t know whether to cry or laugh at such type of propaganda. Nevertheless, they highlight three points: (1) the Birth Planning Policy implemented for decades by the CCP has been proven to be a short-sighted wrong decision; (2) the local officials enforcing the policy are extremely ignorant; and (3) rulers without values of human rights, democracy and freedom can forever shift their attitudes like clouds and rain, and civilians are always the ones that suffer from the calamity.
In conclusion, in the eyes of the CCP’s dictatorship, civilians are only a birth machine. The so-called Two-Child Policy is just the Party’s adjustment of the productivity of this machine. The people’s human rights have not been protected under the Birth Planning Policy, so naturally they won’t get any benefits in terms of freedom even if they are allowed one more child. Only when China completely abolishes this forceful birth planning policy and its coercive fines, publicizes all birth planning data and the amount of fines in the past decades, holds corrupt officials accountable, punishes those that illegally take away people’s lives, provides nation-wide compensation to women and families persecuted because of the birth planning policy and became disabled or even died, can China begin its first step towards living with dignity.