China's One-Child Policy: As Brutal and Hypocritical as Ever

 

Opinion published in USA TODAY on May 31, 2010

By Chai Ling

 

June 1 is the most memorable day of the year for hundreds of millions of children in China. It is "Children's Day," a national holiday where kids enjoy free access to cinemas, parks and museums while their schools throw celebration parties. This year, the Chinese government will celebrate it at the same time as the Shanghai Expo, a $58 billion extravaganza. The real attention-grabber of the Expo is Miguelin, a 21-foot-tall animatronic baby to show that "all our actions have direct consequences on our children's future."

 

Nowhere is such reflection more important than in China, where the consequences of the government's barbaric one-child policy have been catastrophic. For more than 20 years, the government's family planning bureaucracy has been carrying out this coercive population control measure, ruthlessly wielding its power over the reproductive choices of every Chinese woman. Women are forced to obtain a birth permit to have a child. Those who don't comply have been forced against their will to suffer through abortions and sterilization.

 

'Abort it! Kill it!'

 

Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department have both properly criticized China's one-child policy for contributing to infanticide. It is a charge that even some of the propagandists in China's totalitarian regime would not dispute. The government plasters a number of chilling slogans throughout China that are short on nuance. "Better 10 graves than one birth," reads one slogan. "Abort it! Kill it! Terminate it! You just cannot give birth to him or her," reads another official sign written on a long red banner stretched across the entire side of a building.

 

In a nation long known for its ancient preference of sons over daughters, the one-child policy has led to an undeclared war on baby girls. For the cost of a $12 ultrasound, young couples determined to have a boy are practicing gender-selective abortion. Other couples abandon their baby girls, or refuse to report them to authorities, leaving them without basic social services such as health care and education. The results of this social engineering? Nearly 100 million missing girls, and a growing gender imbalance where more than 120 boys are being born for every 100 girls. In some rural provinces the numbers are even more lopsided, with 130 boys being born for every 100 women. It is no wonder why women are being driven to despair in China. The suicide rate among Chinese women is five times the world average, and it is the No. 1 cause of death for rural Chinese women ages 15 to 34. Before Children's Day is over, more than 500 women will have taken their own lives.

 

The damaging impact will not be limited to women. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in just 10 years there will be 30 million to 40 million more boys than girls under the age of 20 in China. To put that number into perspective, China will have as many young men who will never marry — "or bare branches" — as the entire young male population of the United States. This does not bode well for a country where the crime rate has almost doubled in the past 20 years. This reality makes the charade of Children's Day all the more heartbreaking. For every five Chinese boys celebrating, one of them will never find a bride when he gets older. And he will never know the unbridled joy that comes from being a parent.

 

Fighting for freedom

 

The last time I celebrated Children's Day was in 1989. As one of the student leaders of the Tiananmen Square protests, I was given the honor of greeting the children as they walked into the square. It was a time of great hope and enthusiasm. Just three days later, the tanks rolled in as we helplessly witnessed the government firing on its own defenseless citizens. In my subsequent escape from China, many brave men and women risked their lives to protect me and get me to safety.

 

Today a brave network of people in China still are risking their lives to protect innocent women and children from the brutality of the Chinese government. And here in America, half a world away, there are a number of heroes, such as Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who's holding congressional hearings, and activist Reggie Littlejohn, who's dedicating her life to exposing to the world China's forced abortion and "gendercide."

 

Since moving to the U.S., I have been blessed to marry the man of my dreams, and we have three beautiful daughters. Every June 1, I make sure to remind them how lucky we are to live in a country that values personal freedom more than hollow public pageants. When I tuck them in, I give them a kiss, read them a story and say a prayer for the women in China, that one day soon they may have the same freedom and safety that I have found in America and which is the birthright of my three little girls.

 

Chai Ling, a leader of China's 1989 pro-democracy movement, is founder of All Girls Allowed, which is dedicated to ending human rights abuses committed against mothers and baby girls under China's one-child policy.




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