The United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) love affair with China’s ruthless one-child policy continues. Despite overwhelming evidence of massive human rights violations stretching back two decades and in violation of its own charter the UNFPA has just quietly embarked upon a new $20 million program in China to assist its so-called “family planning program.”
The program, which will be carried out in 32 Chinese counties, is being billed as an effort to replace direct coercion with the more subtle forms of pressure that the UNFPA commonly employs to stop Third World families from having children. Beijing has signed off on the four-year experiment. In the delicate phrasing of Kerstin Trone, UNFPA program director, “The Government of China is keen to move away from its administrative approach to family planning to an integrated, client-centered reproductive health approach …” (italics added)
As well it might. For except within the population control movement itself, which continues to celebrate China’s forceful approach, the one-child policy has become a byword for female infanticide, coerced late-term abortions, forced sterilization/contraception, not to mention a host of other horrific abuses that rival in sheer barbarity the worst of Nazi Germany.
Recent examples of such abuses abound. In the August 1997 edition of Marie Claire magazine, for instance, we find a report that China has “implemented [its] harsh birth control policy” in Tibet, including “forced abortions and sterilizations of Tibetan ‘minority’ women.” Tibetan families are allowed one child in urban areas, two in rural areas. “Excess births” are illegal. As throughout China, it is legal to kill such “illegal” Tibetan babies in utero for the entire nine months of pregnancy, even as they descend in the birth canal. In sparsely populated Tibet, such a “family planning” program may properly be called genocidal.
Then, as reported in a previous issue of the Review, there is China’s latest weapon in the war it is waging on its own people: Mobile abortion vans, each of which will be equipped with operating table, suction pumps, and … body clamp. According to Chinese officials, the government has plans to make 600 such vans to travel around the countryside doing abortions. Presumably such vehicles will be banned from the 32 counties in which the UNFPA will be responsible for keeping the birth rate down with its “integrated approach,” but who can be sure’?
Nafis Sadik, the Executive Director of the UNFPA, has let it be known that the Chinese government has agreed to suspend the one-child policy in the 32 counties during the four-year experiment. In her words, “In the project counties couples will be allowed to have as many children as they want, whenever they want, without requiring birth permits or being subject to quotas.”1
Whatever the truth of this statement, it is by itself a remarkable admission. For it has been the steadfast position of the Chinese government — and the UNFPA itself — that the one-child policy does not rely upon birth quotas and targets, nor does it require parents to obtain birth permits prior to having children. Targets and quotas, it should be noted, were banned by the Cairo population conference because they always lead to abuses.
But lest the Chinese people living in these counties take their newfound freedom to have children seriously, the Chinese government has retained the right to use economic pressure. Sadik: “[T]hey may still be subject to a “social compensation fee” if they decide to have more children that [sic] recommended by the policy.” In other words, overly procreating parents will be fined into submission. That’s hardly reproductive freedom.
And what of the ill-favored people in China’s 2000 other counties? Counties where — we have it on the authority of Nafis Sadik herself — birth targets and quotas will continue to be imposed in defiance of world opinions. Counties where parents, on pain of abortion, must obtain birth permits for children prior to conceiving them. Counties where mobile abortion vans roll up and down rural roads, snuffing out the lives of wanted children while their mothers lie helpless in body clamps. And counties in oppressed Tibet, whose sparse populations of nomadic herdsmen are about to be further depleted by ‘“family planning.”
The Founding Charter of the UNFPA says “couples have the right to decide the number and spacing of their children.” The [Executive Director of that organization has now admitted that China’s population-control dictators deny that right. Until that changes, until China abandons the whole oppressive apparatus of targets, quotas, and birth permits, the UNFPA should get out — and stay out — of China.
1 Letter from Nafis Sadik to Mr. Bill Richardson dated 7 January 1998. Note here Sadik’s bold admission of what the Chinese government, and the UNFPA itself, has previously denied, that the one-child policy relies upon birth quotas and targets, and requires parents to obtain birth permits prior to having children.