A state-run Chinese newspaper has finally admitted what pro-life advocates have known and been trying to tell the world for some time—Chinese officials are using force to implement a policy that calls for one child per family in urban areas, and two per family in rural regions. The report comes on the heels of dramatic testimony before a U.S. Congressional subcommittee by a former Chinese population-control administrator, who said that forced abortions and sterilizations are common practices in her native country.

The developments brought the issue of China’s one-child policy, previously relegated to the back pages of newspapers or non-“mainstream” media outlets, to the forefront in the U.S. The ABC-TV news program Nightline, for example, recently devoted a program to the matter.

In quoting Li Honggui, vice-minister of China’s state “family-planning” commission, the China Daily newspaper claimed local officials have been disciplined for using coercion, but gave no indication of the extent of the compulsion, nor the nature of the sanctions against the offending officials.

Although the newspaper said the population-control planning commission “made it a principle to ban coercion at any level,” in reality, local officials are under severe pressure to meet strict birth quotas set by the Chinese government.

China’s one-child policy is based on “national consensus” and is carried out “voluntarily,” said Honggui, claiming the policy has helped contain China’s population growth.

Whether or not the policy has been “successful,” population control in China has come at a high price, as testimony by Gao Xiao Duan has made clear. Gao’s appearance before the House International Relations Human Rights Subcommittee is the first by any administrator of China’s one-child policy in an international forum, and is making waves in Washington and around the world.

Gao, who fled China earlier this year after working for 14 years as head of a “planned birth” office in the town of Yonghe, told the committee she saw women who were nine months pregnant forced to undergo abortions, others who were sterilized, and still others whose homes were destroyed for ignoring fertility regulations.

“I did so many brutal things,” said Gao. “All those … years I was a monster in the daytime, injuring others by carrying out the Chinese communist authorities’ barbaric planned-birth policy. But in the evening, I enjoyed life with my children. I could not live such a dual life anymore.”

A videotape she smuggled out of China included footage of an aborted baby, a detention cell with bars, and an operating room. Gao said people were held as long as eight months in detention. Evidence was presented from several women who underwent forced abortions, and there was footage of the destruction of the home of a woman who violated the population-control laws.

Paid informants

Gao said she took part in the deliberate destruction of two homes belonging to women who gave birth without state permission. Her office also paid informants to report on unauthorized pregnancies.

The video showed a computer room in which were stored the marital, fertility, and birth-control histories of every woman in the town under age 49, down to the dates of their menstrual cycles.

The Chinese embassy in Washington has rejected all her testimony, and Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhu Bangzao attacked Gao’s confession as a “distortion.” “We oppose some people using this to distort our nation’s birth-control policy and politicizing this problem … The Chinese government’s promotion of its birth-control policy is a dual responsibility for the Chinese people and the world’s people.”

But Republican Congressman Christopher Smith of New Jersey, who called for testimony on human rights violations in China, said Gao’s accounts “included depravity … that not even the harshest critics of the (population-control) program ever suspected. Women are rounded up, held in ‘population jail cells’ and coerced to submit to the killing of their children.”

Smith added that the Clinton administration has trivialized forced abortion in China, and he urged the United Nations to organize an international tribunal to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of the Chinese population-control program.

U.S.-China relations

On the Nightline program, host Ted Koppel noted China’s birth-control policies have become one of the most controversial issues in the U.S., and are poised to become one of the most controversial aspects of the relationship between the two countries.

John Aird, former chief of the China branch at the U.S. Census Bureau, said on the program that China’s population-control system “represents coercion on a scale beyond anything that the world has ever seen, and it also represents a massive assault on women in China, because women bear the brunt of all these measures.”

Peter Kostmayer, executive director of Zero Population Growth, told Nightline that China’s population-control policies are “reprehensible violations of the most basic and fundamental human rights.” In almost the same breath, however, he said the U.S. has to provide more “resources” to “international family planning.” Zero Population Growth advocates population-control measures on a global scale.The Chinese government declined to have a representative appear on the program.