By Edward Pentin
Reports last week that a Chinese government think tank was urging China to start phasing out its one-child policy immediately and allow two children for every family by 2015, seemed encouraging on the surface.
The think tank’s report, which also proposed all birth limits to be dropped by 2020, was welcomed as a “bold move” by some groups and, being a government funded initiative, it quickly morphed into speculation that the Communist regime might seriously be considering rescinding the policy.
But a leading activist against the forced abortion and gendercide taking place in China today has serious doubts about such reports (similar assertions have been made in recent years) which she sees as misleading and may in fact be prolonging the deadly policy.
Speaking to ZENIT last week while on a visit to Rome, Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, said that media stories suggesting China was ending its one-child policy were simply “not true.”
“Firstly, the Chinese government is under no obligation to accept this recommendation,” Littlejohn explains. “Secondly, the problem with the one-child Policy is not the number of children allowed but the fact that the policy is enforced through forced abortion. So whether the child is a first or second child, a woman is still going to have to have a birth permit to have those children, or she may be forced to have an abortion.”
“Thirdly,” Littlejohn continues, “having a two-child policy doesn’t get rid of the issue of gendercide because, right now, populations living in the countryside are already allowed to have a second child if their first child is a girl, and that’s where we see most of the gendercide happening.” The reason for this is China’s traditional preference for boys, leading to large gender disparities, sometimes 160 males to every 100 females in these areas.
Littlejohn’s warning is “don’t be fooled.” The coercive enforcement of China’s one-child policy causes more “violence toward women and girls than any other official policy on earth, and any other official policy in the history of the world,” she says, and suspects this is Chinese propaganda. There is some concern that rumours are being circulated by the Chinese government to make it appear that the one-child policy is going to end – when, in fact, that is not the case at all.
But Littlejohn does not rule out the possibility that a genuine movement in China to rescind the policy may be afoot. She points to the fact that two other groups, similar to the China Development Research Foundation which wrote last week’s report, have targeted the one-child policy since the release earlier this year of the blind Chinese activist against forced abortion, Chen Guangeng. Gruesome cases of forced abortion have also come to light in this timeframe, one of which helped lead to a resolution at the European Parliament calling for a ban on the practice earlier this year.
Today (Nov. 8th), China’s Communist Party is holding its once-in-a-decade power transfer that will see a change in its leadership, and Littlejohn wonders whether this think tank’s report and other developments have been timed to influence the new government.
“We don’t know who those [China’s new leaders] are going to be, and what their attitude towards family planning will be,” she says, but adds that “hopefully” this is an attempt to influence the government. But as she explained, whether they implement the recommendations or not, it’s not going end the problems associated with the one-child policy.
Indeed, Littlejohn believes that the China’s Communist party is wanting to retain the policy – originally introduced as a temporary measure 33 years ago – because it helps to prop up the regime.
She points out that, despite the negative effects of the one-child policy on Chinese society (gender imbalances leading to social instability, an growing elderly population without young people to support them), China still appears intent on keeping it.
Littlejohn believes the terror of forced abortion is proving a useful means to the government of instilling terror in the population. “To be dragged out of your home in middle of night, strapped on to a table and forced to abort a baby at nine months - it’s hard to think of anything more terrifying than that,” Littlejohn argues. “Now I think it is arguably a policy of China – to show the power of the state. It’s like a reign of terror, and the family planning police are like the new Red Guard.”
Furthermore, she believes the infrastructure of coercion needed to maintain the policy “can be turned in any direction,” including putting down the dissent of pro-democracy activists. Littlejohn notes that the policy requires a system of paid informants where, if women are found to be illegally pregnant, they can be informed upon by their neighbors, co-workers, supervisor, people in a village who are watching to see if women are a little bit bigger than normal. “People in China don’t know who they can trust. It tears apart the natural relationship of trust in society, its social fabric, and if you don’t know who to trust, you can’t organise for democracy.”
Littlejohn also points out that the fines imposed on women who have children illegally are enormous, sometimes ten times an annual salary, and this is a significant source of revenue for the government as some people do pay fines to have another child rather than abort.
This is why Littlejohn is sceptical that whenever she hears that China wants to end its one-child policy. “I think that’s propaganda,” she says, “and it’s naïve on part of the Western press to print such stories.”
Littlejohn is currently touring Europe to promote a new video called “It’s a Girl” that exposes gendercide and forced abortion not just in China but also countries such as India where the practice is also widespread. One U.N. expert has estimated that 200 million women are missing in the world today due to the sex-selective abortion of baby girls. The title points to the fact that although they should be a cause for joy and celebration, the words “It’s a Girl” said at the birth of a newborn baby girl are actually “the three deadliest words in the world” for many populations with a traditional preference for boys over girls.
The website on the video can be found here