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UNFPA Supports Coercive Family Planning—Including Forced Abortion—In China (and PRI Has

October 4, 2001

Volume 3/ Number 25

Dear Colleague:

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) claims that there is no coercion in the family planning programs they run in China. PRI has found evidence that these claims are false.

Steven W. Mosher


UNFPA Supports Coercive Family Planning—Including Forced Abortion—in China


(and PRI Has the Evidence to Prove It)

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), under a program begun in 1998, operates family planning programs in 32 counties, or county-level municipalities, throughout China.1

Stung by earlier criticism of its complicity in China’s one-child policy, the UNFPA is at pains to disavow any connection with targets and quotas, coercion or abortion. The UNFPA claims that in the counties where it is


(1) reproductive health programs are “fully voluntary” and that “women are free to voluntarily select the timing and spacing of their pregnancies;”2

(2) targets and quotas have been lifted;3

(3) in keeping with the principles of the 1994 Cairo Program of Action, abortion is not promoted as a method of family planning;4

(4) coercion does not exist.5

Population Research Institute decided to investigate whether the UNFPA’s sweeping claims about its support and management of family planning programs in China were true. In September 2001 a team of PRI investigators traveled to China to interview women and officials in those counties where the UNFPA is active. Interviews were recorded in notebooks, on audiotape, and on videotape. Additional photographic evidence was gathered.

The results of PRI’s investigation clearly indicate that the UNFPA’s claims are false. The full report of PRI’s investigation will be released later this month. Some highlights follow.

Jackhammer campaign

Only about five miles from a UNFPA office—in a county where UNFPA claims that women are free to determine the timing and spacing of their pregnancies—PRI interviewed a young woman who reported that she came under severe pressure to have an abortion. In her county, she and others testified, if a woman becomes pregnant at too early an age, or within four years of the birth of her first child, or without a pregnancy permission certificate from the county family planning office, officials insist that abortion is mandatory.6

To avoid a forced abortion, this woman fled to a neighboring town where she went into hiding. (She and others reported that women frequently hide their pregnancies to avoid being forced into an involuntary abortion in this county. If the women are caught, severe punishment follows.) Unable to locate her, family planning officials attempted to force the woman out of hiding and into an abortion by arresting the woman’s mother, father, brother, sister, and mother- and brother-in-law. They were held in jail for four months. They were only released in July 2000, after the family had paid a fine of 17,000 renminbi, equivalent to several years income. (The woman reported that she must now pay an additional 17,000 RMB fine for her child to be legally registered and permitted to attend school. These exorbitant fines constitute an additional form of coercion, and a warning to others who might violate the one-child policy.)

While her relatives were being held in jail, to further increase the pressure on her to have an abortion, their homes were partly destroyed. The attack occurred on April 5, 2000, on the occasion of a major Chinese festival, Qingming. Family planning crews armed with jackhammers attacked this woman’s home, and her brother- and father-in-law’s homes, hammering great holes in the floors, walls, ceilings and roofs of these homes. In addition, they ransacked the homes. The windows and doors to the homes were removed and confiscated. Furniture and belongings were destroyed or confiscated. PRI has photos of the damage.

Forced abortion and forced sterilization

In a waiting room of an abortion hospital about a mile from the UNFPA office in one UNFPA county, PRI met a 19-year-old pregnant woman who expressed a desire to keep her child. She was taken in for a non-voluntary abortion in another room as PRI continued to interview other women and hospital staff in the waiting room. “Of course she would like to keep her child,” one of this woman’s friends testified, “but it’s the law [that she have an abortion].”

About five miles from a UNFPA office, within a county where the UNFPA is supporting family planning, a woman testified that she had recently been forcibly sterilized after the birth of a son, in keeping with China’s family planning policy in this county. In every village in one UNFPA county, billboard propaganda urges women to help the economy by complying with family planning policies. PRI interviewed dozens of other women and men, all of whom confirmed—without exception—that voluntarism is non-existent in this county where UNFPA operates.

Targets and Quotas

Within counties where the UNFPA is active, we found “model villages,” so-called because they have met all the requirements of the government’s one-child policy. The family planning official responsible for a “model village” receives promotions based on continued compliance with the one-child policy. This is a clear indication that contrary to UNFPA claims, the one-child policy, with its attendant targets and quotas, is still in place.

UNFPA support

In advance of PRI’s investigation, UNFPA would not provide PRI with the addresses of its 32 county-level offices. In a visit to one UNFPA county, however, PRI investigators were able to pinpoint the exact location of the

UNFPA office. The UNFPA “office” consists of a single desk within the

Family Planning Office of the county government. This is the office responsible for the support and management of all family planning activities within the county. PRI has photos of this office.

The UNFPA office desk faces, and in fact touches, a central desk in the Family Planning Office. It is centered within the four other desks that occupy the Family Planning Office. Working in such close proximity with officials of the Family Planning Office, it strains credulity to think that the UNFPA official in residence is not fully familiar with the coercive way that China’s one-child policy is being carried out locally.

PRI believes that, despite UNFPA claims to the contrary, there is no real distinction between the one-child policy as carried out in the 32 counties where the UNFPA is active and the one-child policy found throughout China as a whole.

We believe that the evidence is conclusive: The UNFPA, contrary to its own statements, is participating in the management and support of a program of forced abortion and forced sterilization in China, and should therefore be ineligible for US funds.

At an upcoming press conference in Washington, PRI will present additional information and evidence which confirms UNFPA’s support and management of forced abortion and sterilization in China.


1. “China: background information,” UNFPA, .

2. “UNFPA’s Country Program in China: Providing Quality Care, Protecting Human Rights,” UNFPA, 10 August 2001. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. “China: One-child Policy Update,” Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, June 1999.

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