County Ordered to Do 20,000 Abortions and Sterilizations

China Punishing a Poor, Rural Region with Big Families

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BEIJING, AUG. 6, 2001 ( A Chinese county where families average five or more children has been ordered to conduct 20,000 abortions and sterilizations before the end of the year, the Sunday Telegraph of London reported.

The mountainous region of Huaiji has been set the draconian target by provincial authorities in Guangdong (formerly known as Canton) after it was found to routinely flout the country´s one-child family policy.

Although the policy is no longer strictly enforced in many rural areas, Guangdong officials issued the edict after census data revealed that the average family in Huaiji has five or more children.

Many of the abortions will have to be conducted forcibly on peasant women to meet the quota.

As part of the campaign, county officials are buying expensive ultrasound equipment that can be carried to remote villages by car. By detecting which women are pregnant, the machines will allow government doctors to order abortions on the spot.

Doctors also had been ordered to sterilize women as soon as they gave birth after officially approved pregnancies.

The Huaiji county leadership, saying it was strapped for funds, decided that it could buy the ultrasound machines only if it withheld part of the salaries of its 15,000 employees.

«We are a very poor county,» one official said. «As our budget is very small, we don´t have the money to buy new equipment.»

Employees of the county government have spoken out against the levy. Teachers, policemen and clerks, who already find their 600 yuan ($71) monthly salary inadequate, now have to support their families on half that amount.

One official said: «Party members and officials are people, too. We don´t know why we should pay for such a heartless drive.»

Sven Burmester, the United Nations Population Fund representative in Beijing, said: «For all the bad press, China has achieved the impossible. The country has solved its population problem.»

That «bad press» has included reports of babies drowned in paddy fields by officials. Most recently, a woman was reported to have died while trying to escape from officials who were trying to sterilize her.

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