Human Rights Activist: China's One-Child Policy 'Greatest Human Rights Atrocity on Earth’

Patrick Goodenough | September 25, 2015 | 1:14am EDT
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China says its 35 year-old “one-child” policy has helped to reduce the country’s population by more than 400 million people. Critics say the program involves forced abortion and sterilization, as well as punitive fines and other rights abuses (Photo: Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission)

( – Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state dinner in Washington Friday is taking place on the 35th anniversary of the launch of Beijing’s controversial “one-child” policy, prompting a campaigner against the policy to urge him in an open letter to “end the greatest human rights atrocity on earth today.”

Designed by the communist regime to keep China’s population growth in check, the birth-limitation regulations have been enforced, according to researchers, through abuses ranging from coerced abortions and sterilizations to prohibitive fines, loss of jobs or other punishments for those who contravene their birth quota.

Despite amendments to the policy in recent years – for instance, allowing urban couples to have a second child if one parent is an only child, rather than both parents as previously mandated – critics say rampant abuses continue.

“It is time for the coercive enforcement of the one-child policy to end,” Women’s Rights Without Frontiers president Reggie Littlejohn wrote in the open letter to the Chinese leader.

“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.”

On Friday night, President Obama will host Xi for a lavish state dinner at the White House – the ninth of Obama’s presidency – with fine wines, Colorado lamb, Maine lobster and R&B entertainment on the menu.

September 25, 1980 is generally viewed as the start date of the one-child policy. On that day the Communist Party’s central committee sent an open letter to all party members and the Communist Youth League, instructing all to adhere to a “one-couple one-child” rule that had been voluntarily and unevenly applied over the previous several years.

Government officials characterize as a success the fact that 400 million births have been “prevented” since the policy was put into place.

“We’ve taken only 30 years to almost achieve what developed countries have done with population control targets in 100 years,” the head of Beijing’s family planning body, Zhang Weiqing, boasted several years ago. “I have to say our work is commendable.”

In her letter to Xi Littlejohn, an American attorney who has testified to lawmakers in the U.S., Europe and Canada on the China policy, cited that 400 million figure.

“These births have been prevented through forced abortions, involuntary sterilizations, confiscatory ‘terror fines,’ gendercide and infanticide – all in violation of international human rights law,” she wrote.

Women’s Rights Without Frontiers president Reggie Littlejohn testifies on the one-child policy at the European Parliament in March 2011. (Photo: Women’s Rights Without Frontiers)

Obama urged to press Xi on human rights

In a society that favors boys for cultural and economic reasons but where family sizes are also limited by the state, sex-selective abortions are believed to occur frequently.

The result has been an increasingly lopsided boy-to-girl ratio in Chinese society, which experts warn could seriously destabilize Chinese society in the coming years. The policy has already been blamed for a recorded rise in cross-border trafficking of women and girls into China from south-east Asia and elsewhere.

“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,” the State Department says in its 2015 trafficking in persons report.

“Women and girls are recruited through marriage brokers and transported to China, where some are subjected to forced prostitution or forced labor.”

Other less obvious social ills attributed to China’s policy include people being driven to mental breakdown or suicide, and recorded increases in Chinese rates of breast cancer, allegedly linked to abortion, and especially to multiple abortions. (Some 13 million abortions take places in China each year, according to official figures.)

“President Xi Jinping, you are uniquely positioned to end the greatest human rights atrocity on earth today,” Littlejohn wrote. “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,’” she concluded, citing an expression attributed to communist China’s founder Mao Zedong.

Human rights campaigners say that China’s human rights record in general has worsened under Xi’s presidency.

At a Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing last week, chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said the commission’s latest annual report, to be released within weeks, will find that Beijing’s efforts “to silence dissent, suppress human rights advocacy, and control civil society are broader in scope than any other period documented since the commission started issuing annual reports in 2002.”

Half a dozen human rights groups are organizing a lunchtime rally outside the White House Friday, to urge Obama to press Xi on human rights during the visit.

“Since Xi Jinping became president of China, Chinese Christians, journalists, human rights lawyers, Tibetans, Uighurs, Mongols and many other communities have suffered increased persecution and an unrelenting assault on their basic human rights,” according to China Aid Association, one of the participating groups.

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