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An open letter from Steven W. Mosher to Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Popu

October 26, 2001

Volume/ 3 Number 27

Dear Colleague:

Since 1998, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) has participated in the support and management of family planning programs in 32 Chinese counties. The UNFPA has long claimed that the programs it “manages” are entirely “voluntary,” but a recent PRI-sponsored investigation has revealed, contra UNFPA, widespread forced abortions and sterilizations. In an amazing turnabout, the UNFPA now claims to have no representatives in their program counties. Not only that, they now feign ignorance of the real state of affairs there, and are sending a delegation to find out. If the UNFPA is having trouble finding its own people and projects in China, PRI would be happy to lead them there, as I say in the below open letter to world’s largest population control agency.

An open letter from Steven W. Mosher to Thoraya Obaid,

Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund

Thoraya Obaid

Executive Director

United Nations Population Fund

220 East 42nd Street

New York, New York 10017

Dear Ms. Obaid:

A Mr. Rob Gustafson, who claims to represent your organization, has contacted us regarding your population control activities in China.

Specifically, he wanted the names and addresses of women who were forcibly aborted and sterilized in Sihui County, one of the 32 counties where you operate in China, and where you claim that coercion does not exist.

Now, as someone concerned with the reproductive rights of women, you must know that we cannot possibly reveal to you or your operatives confidential information about the women we interviewed. Not only would this violate their right to privacy, it would also put them at risk of serious repercussions from one of the most repressive governments in the world.

Surely you would not want to be a party to such human rights abuses.

Nonetheless, in the hope that you are serious about correcting your deeply flawed programs in China (or, failing that, withdrawing from that country altogether), I would like to be helpful.

First, I would draw your attention to an October 17, 2001, hearing of the International Relations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Coercive Population Control in China: New Evidence of Forced Abortion and Sterilization.” The “new evidence” in question was the product of a PRI-sponsored investigation of the UNFPA’s activities in China. That evidence included

video- and audio-taped testimony from women in China who state that they and their relatives and friends are being forcibly aborted and sterilized in a county where your organization claims no such abuses occur.

Had you accepted the invitation of Congressman Henry Hyde, Chairman of the International Relations Committee, to testify yourself, you would have been able to hear our testimony firsthand. And you would have been able to respond to it. But of course you chose not to come.

I was initially puzzled by your refusal. After all, you claim that your program in China is (1) “fully voluntary,” and that (2) “women are free to voluntarily select the timing and spacing of their pregnancies,” (3) targets and quotas have been lifted, (4) abortion is not promoted as a method of family planning, and (5) coercion does not exist. If these sweeping claims were true, why would you not come and proudly defend your collaboration with the Chinese government?

Did you refuse to testify because you knew that these claims were not true? Or did you refuse because—despite your claims to be “managing” these multimillion dollar programs—you have little idea what is actually happening on the ground in China, namely, that women in large numbers are being violated by forced abortions, sterilizations, and IUD insertions?

Our conversations with your agent, Mr. Gustafson, in the days following the hearing, offered some clues to your strange reticence.

First, your agent informed us that UNFPA was finding it difficult to locate the workplace of its representative in Sihui County. We find this curious, because it took our investigators only a matter of minutes to locate the UNFPA office within the Sihui County Family Planning Office.

Second, your agent informed us that UNFPA, despite “managing” the program in Sihui County, does not really have “representatives” there. In fact, he went on to tell us, “there are only three UNFPA workers in China, all of whom are in Beijing.” If you don’t have a representative in Sihui County, this would explain your ignorance of the situation there, but it would also make a mockery of your claims that “your” program is “voluntary.” It wouldn’t be “your” program at all, would it, but China’s.

Third, your agent informed us that you were organizing a delegation to go to Sihui for the specific purpose of verifying our report of widespread coercion there. I am sure that you will instruct your delegation to make a sincere effort to seek out instances of coercion (it won’t be hard to find), and not just paper over the problem with false findings and false promises.

Such instruction is absolutely necessary, Ms. Obaid, because your organization has played fast and loose with the truth in the past. When the UNFPA’s operations in the Balkans came under criticism (your predecessor launched population control programs in Kosovo at the invitation of the Milosevic government!), the medical staff of the Pristina hospital in Kosovo defended your “reproductive health programs.”

But it turned out, as they later confirmed to us, that they had only done so because they were promised material inducements by the UNFPA. When the promised support wasn’t forthcoming, they complained to us about your duplicity.

But, as I say, I wish to help.

If you anticipate difficulties in documenting instances of the widespread coercion that continues to characterize China’s one-child policy in your program counties, I would be happy to accompany your delegation to Sihui County. It is not far from where I, as one of the first American social scientists in China, conducted my field research back in 1979-80. Forced abortions and sterilizations were the order of the day then, just as they are now.

Even in the programs you are funding in the counties you have certified as free of such abuses.

Sincerely yours,

Steven W. Mosher


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