(CNSNews.com) - When President Barack Obama hosted a state dinner in January for Chinese President Hu Jintao--who also serves as secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party--Obama toasted Hu for China’s “reverence of the family” and its “desire to give our children a better life.”
But in the months leading up to that state dinner, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a U.S-based group, had repeatedly reported on a 2010 incident in which Chinese officials separately detained a new mother and her one-month-old baby girl—keeping the mother and infant apart to intimidate the mother into undergoing a sterilization procedure.
In its annual human rights report on China released last week, the U.S. State Department listed the detention of this one-month-old baby as an example of China’s mistreatment of women.
“A U.S.-based human rights organization reported that in August, the one-month-old daughter of a mother in Changfeng County, Anhui Province, was detained by local family-planning officials until the woman signed a document consenting to a sterilization procedure,” said the State Department Country Report on Human Rights in China.
After publishing reports on the incident in August and November, Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) summarized the incident in a report published on Dec. 21, 2010—less than a month before Obama toasted Hu at the White House.
“On July 15, 2010, 23 year-old Li Hongmei, who had given … birth less than a month earlier, was abducted with her baby by officials in Changfeng County, Anhui Province,” said the CHRD report entitled “I Don’t Have Control Over My Own Body.”
“When her family contacted local officials about her disappearance, a quarrel ensued and Li's mother was taken into custody by local police and was later administratively detained for 10 days for ‘obstructing the carrying out of official duties,’” said the report.
“The family later learned that Li had been taken to Shuangfeng Hospital, where she was separated from her baby as a means of pressuring her to give her written consent to sterilization; after the procedure she suffered from dizziness and chest pains,” said the report.
After Li was sterilized, according to the CHRD report, she brought a lawsuit against the government.
“In August 2010, Li managed to find a legal representative to help her file a lawsuit after many lawyers refused to take the case because it ‘involved government policies,’” said the report.
CHRD had first drawn attention to the plight of Li Hongmei and her baby in its the Aug. 24-30 edition of its newsletter on human rights in China.
“Li, who gave birth to her first baby daughter on June 21, was kidnapped along with her child by family planning officials on July 15,” said the newsletter. “When her family members contacted local officials regarding her disappearance, a quarrel broke out and Li’s mother, Yang Yonglian was seized by local police. She was later administratively detained 10 days for ‘obstructing the carrying out of official duties.’
“The family later learned that Li, who gave birth less than a month ago, had been taken to Shuangfeng Hospital, where family planning officials had held Li’s baby to coerce her into signing an agreement consenting to the sterilization procedure,” said the newsletter. “Li fell ill after the procedure, suffering from dizziness and chest pains, and remains hospitalized at the time of writing.”
CHRD reporting on the incident again in the Nov. 3-9 edition of its newsletter, this time pointing out that the young mother who had been coerced into being sterilized was then trying to file a lawsuit against the local branch of the Chinese government.
“CHRD learned on November 2 that the Changfeng County People’s Court in Anhui Province may accept a lawsuit filed by 23 year-old Gangji Town, Changfeng County mother Li Hongmei, who was kidnapped by government officials and subjected to forced a sterilization procedure in July 2010,” said the newsletter.
“Anhui Province activist Ma Lianggang, acting as a citizen representative, filed an administrative litigation lawsuit on behalf of Li on October 18; at that time, it was rejected by the Changfeng County People’s Court on the grounds that it was ‘unclear,’” the human rights group said. “However, after a conversation with the presiding judge of the court on October 29, Ma was invited to resubmit the lawsuit on November 2. The court has seven days to decide whether or not to accept the case.”
China’s move to detain Li’s one-month-old baby to coerce Li into being sterilized was designed to carry out China’s longstanding one-child-per-couple population policy.
“The law grants married couples the right to have one birth and allows eligible couples to apply for permission to have a second child if they meet conditions stipulated in local and provincial regulations,” said the State Department human rights report released last week.
Chinese couples who do not comply with the legal limits on childbearing can be forced to pay astronomical financial penalties, according to the State Department.
“The law requires each person in a couple that has an unapproved child to pay a ‘social compensation fee,’ which can reach 10 times a person's annual disposable income,” said the State Department report. “The law grants preferential treatment to couples who abide by the birth limits.”
Local Chinese government officials are rewarded or punished depending on how well they meet local population targets.
“Officials at all levels remained subject to rewards or penalties based on meeting the population goals set by their administrative region,” said the State Department report. “Promotions for local officials depended in part on meeting population targets. Linking job promotion with an official's ability to meet or exceed such targets provided a powerful structural incentive for officials to employ coercive measures to meet population goals.”
Although Chinese law formally prohibits sex-selection abortions, the birth rate for males in China far outstrips the birthrate for girls—and is dramatically out of step with global demographic trends.
“According to government estimates released in February, the national average for the male-female sex ratio at birth was 119 to 100 in 2009 (compared with norms elsewhere of between 103 and 107 to 100),” said the State Department report. “The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimated that by 2020, there could be as many as 24 million more men than women of marriageable age (ages 19-45) in China. In September Vice Premier Li Keqiang announced that the government would ‘launch measures to narrow the widening ratio of men and women.’”
Female babies born in China are also less likely to survive than male babies.
“Female babies suffered from a higher mortality rate than male babies, contrary to the worldwide norm,” said the State Department. “State media reported that infant mortality rates in rural areas were 27 percent higher for girls than boys and that neglect was one factor in their lower survival rate.”
“Female infanticide, sex-selective abortions, and the abandonment and neglect of baby girls remained problems due to the traditional preference for sons and the coercive birth limitation policy,” the State Department concluded.
When he hosted Chinese President Hu Jintao at a black-tie White House dinner on Jan. 19, President Obama focused on what he suggested were the shared value that the United States and China put on human lives--particularly the lives of children.
“And while it’s easy to focus on our differences of culture and perspective, let us never forget the values that our people share: A reverence for family; the belief that, with education and hard work and with sacrifice, the future is what we make it; and most of all, the desire to give our children a better life,” Obama said to Hu.
“I'm told that there is a Chinese proverb that says: If you want one year of prosperity, then grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, then grow trees. But if you want 100 years of prosperity, then you grow people,” said Obama.
“And so I propose a toast--to our people, the citizens of the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America,” said Obama. “May they grow together in friendship. May they prosper together in peace. And may they realize their dream of the future for themselves, for their children, and for their grandchildren.”