20,000 to be killed by years end

In the wake of its being awarded the 2008 Olympic Games, China is ordering one of its remote, poverty-stricken regions to commit at least 20,000 abortions by the end of this year.

Chinese authorities are reported to have issued the order because their official one-child-per-family policy is being routinely ignored in Huaiji region, where 2000 census figures show that the average number of children is five. Observers suggest that if the government quota is to be met, many abortions will have to be committed forcibly on peasant women, while other women will be sterilized.

These facts don’t appear to faze officials with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities. Sven Burmester, the UNFPA’s representative in Beijing, has been quoted as saying: “For all the bad press, China has achieved the impossible. The country has solved its population problem.”

But as the Daily Telegraph (London) sardonically noted, the ‘bad press’ includes infanticide, forced late-trimester abortions and coercive sterilization of women. Recently, a woman died while trying to escape officials who were attempting to sterilize her against her wishes. The Chinese government’s Family Planning Association routinely forces abortions on women, sometimes in the eighth month of pregnancy, and a propaganda campaign has persuaded many young women to use abortion as a form of birth control.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation, in an August 7 news release, lauded “the sincere efforts being made by many government officials and many ordinary Chinese” with regard to population control. “Chinese demographers have been working quietly to adjust the (one-child) policy and make it more humane,” The IPPF added.

But Ann Noonan, policy director for the Laogai Research Foundation, says virtually all pregnancies before the end of the year in Huaiji, a region of China in the province of Guangdong (formerly Canton) with a population of one million, will have to end by abortion for the quota to be achieved.

“Like many mothers in the world – poor and rich alike – Chinese women, despite decades of Maoist indoctrination, continue to regard their children as treasures, and as a result, have disregarded China’s one-child policy. In Huaiji, they are being now punished for this.”

According to the Daily Telegraph, government officials are buying expensive ultrasound equipment that can be carried to remote villages by car. Doctors who detect pregnancies can then order abortions performed on the spot.

In addition, at Huaiji’s hospital, doctors have been ordered to sterilize women as soon as they give birth after “officially approved” pregnancies.

Residents of Huaiji are reported to be up in arms not only because of the quota, but also from the fact that salaries for 15,000 lower-level public employees – including teachers and police – are being withheld to pay for the ultrasound machines. “Party members and officials are people, too,” said one employee. “We don’t know why we should pay for such a heartless drive.”

Abortions are becoming a major source of income for cash-strapped Chinese hospitals, which also see mothers from Hong Kong come to abort their babies as a way of avoiding formalities required under the laws of the former British colony.

With respect to China’s successful Olympic bid and the abortion-quota order, Calgary resident Mark Vanderham may have spoken for all Canadians of conscience. He asked in a letter to the National Post newspaper whether the International Olympic Committee cares “about the gross injustices of China’s human rights violations, or is it all about politics and money? I wonder what it would take to cause a boycott of China’s games?”