Coercive Population Control – the one child policy


 

 

China has many great achievements of which it can be justifiably proud. The one child policy, and the coercion on which it is based,  is not one of them……Pasted below is some of the background to this contentious issue, a policy which has been indirectly supported via funding from successive UK Governments:

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House of Commons: 1995

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill): I support the hon. Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton), especially her remarks about the unsuitability of Beijing, of all places, as a centre for the holding of a conference discussing women’s rights. I urge right hon. and hon. Members to sign the early-day motion that the hon. Lady has tabled, which I believe describes the true position in China. It has been extraordinary to listen to the speeches, especially those of the hon. Members for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) and for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), in defence of practices in China. Implicitly, whether they like it or not, they are defending those practices if they accept that the programmes that are being used in China to fund forced abortion and forced sterilisation should continue to receive resources from this country.

The hon. Members for Croydon, South and for Clydebank and Milngavie have adumbrated the voluntary principle, and they have said that they oppose coercion. Of course everyone in the House would share those opinions; they sound wonderful, but that is not the issue. The issue is what is happening on the ground. Are we financing it? Are we prepared to aid and abet it? If not, what will we do about that? The approach of the hon. Member for Croydon, South is revealingly illustrated in his book, which is curiously titled, “Less People, Less Pollution”. That is an extraordinary way of regarding the population question–fewer people equals less pollution. The issue for the House is not the pollution that people may cause but the respect that we place on the very right to life itself. It is about the respect that we place on human rights; it is about the position of women in society; it is about the voluntary principle; and it is about poverty.

I will not listen to the speeches that have been made, implying that those of us who share the opinions that will be expressed on the Floor of the House today are reactionary or oppose development. I strongly support the increase of our overseas aid programme and the principle that we should attack poverty at every possible level, but there are ways of doing that. It is never, and surely should never be, part of our approach to defend the discredited policies of a regime that uses such unacceptable methods against its own population. Hon. Members have intervened to ask, where is the evidence? I intend to discuss that later, but I would especially draw people’s attention to the congressional debate that took place on May 24 1995 and the evidence that led Congress again to decide that it did not want to fund those programmes–evidence that led the previous American Administration not to fund the programmes.


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Anyone who saw on their television screen the events in Tiananmen square hardly needs to be convinced that evidence is required about the brutality of the Chinese regime. The Human Rights Law Review provides evidence, if that is what hon. Members are looking for. I shall refer to that later in my remarks.

I have followed the issue for several years. I have been to see Ministers, presented petitions and tabled motions and questions about what I believe constitutes the most pernicious and evil abuse of women and human rights anywhere in the world today. I am utterly mystified as to how anyone could watch the programme, “The Dying Rooms”, to which the hon. Member for Congleton referred, or last year’s BBC programme, “Women of the Yellow Earth”, and still offer a defence of the payment of £100 million of blood money over the past decade.

In 1994, the United Kingdom Government gave £8.5 million to the UNFPA and £7.5 million to the IPPF. British taxpayers have been underwriting forced abortion, forced sterilisation, the forcible fitting of IUCDs and even infanticide for more than 20 years. Successive Ministers have defended one of the greatest scandals in the use of overseas aid that I have ever come across. They have used a succession of arguments.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley): I have one simple question. The hon. Gentleman is speaking from the Bench of the leader of the Liberal party. Will he make it clear whether he is speaking in a personal capacity or on behalf of the Liberal Democrats?

Mr. Alton: In 1992 my party had quite a divisive argument about whether abortion should be party policy. I am glad to say that, unlike the Labour party, we ultimately decided that it should be a matter for personal conscience. I speak today on my own behalf from this Bench. I should be interested to know whether, when the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) speaks today, he will do so on behalf of the official Opposition. I should be interested to know whether he will state that the Labour party will continue that policy. The hon. Gentleman is confirming to the House on behalf of the Labour party–it is important to have it on the record–that if the Labour party forms the next Government, they will continue to fund such programmes in China.

Mr. Foulkes: I am confirming that if I have a chance to speak in today’s debate, I shall be doing so on behalf of the official Opposition. As to what I shall say, the hon. Gentleman will find out then. He should not try to anticipate it.

Mr. Alton: The hon. Gentleman sought clarification from me and I am simply seeking clarification from him. I am trying to clarify whether he will be speaking on behalf of the official Opposition in such a way that we can assume that the Labour party will maintain the present Government’s policies and offer the same arguments advanced by Ministers over the past two decades.

The first of those arguments was expressed by Lady Chalker: funding such programmes enables us to influence them. There is no supporting evidence to show that funding leads to influence over policies. The second argument that has been advanced by Ministers is that there is insufficient evidence- -even though, naturally, they did not approve of coercion. Ministers’ next argument was the rural aberration


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argument. They argued that such policies might be pursued, but they were only the work of a few over-zealous officials in some backwoods area of China.

I have received a succession of identical replies to the parliamentary questions that I have tabled. The Government say that they are “deeply concerned”. However, they are not concerned enough to do anything to stop the systematic abuse of women and children. The greatest deceit of all that they commit is to trot out the platitude that we are all opposed to the principle of coercion, while continuing to fund those who perpetuate the crimes against humanity, which is precisely what they are. The Nuremberg war trials tribunal rightly judged the forced abortion of Polish women to have been a crime against humanity. The shocking thing is that it has taken something as horrific as “The Dying Rooms” to shake us out of our complacency.

At the height of the mass sterilisation campaign in the 1970s the UNFPA gave China the first ever UN population award for its success in curbing population. The UNFPA provided training for central Government officials responsible for the policy. It provided computer systems that monitor the effectiveness of the programmes in reaching their targets. It funded the building of two facilities that have made China self-sufficient in IUD production. Some 41 per cent. of Chinese women now have IUDs, which, once inserted–often against their will–they can do little about. X-ray machines are used to ensure that women have not removed them.

The UNFPA is a United Nations agency. The UN purports to guarantee the

“right to freely found a family and decide on the number and spacing of the children”.

Yet, in direct contradiction of that, the communist Chinese Minister for family planning, Qian Zinzhong, has said:

“The size of the family is far too important to be left to the couple. Births are a matter of state planning.”

China’s one-child policy uniquely marks it out as a country where it is illegal to have a brother or a sister; where little girls are eliminated in favour of their brothers and where eugenics laws–like those so favoured by the eugenicists who founded the IPPF–now permit the killing of disabled children.

In October 1994 the People’s Republic of China passed a law on maternal and infant health care that came into force just a couple of weeks ago. It allows the Government to force newly married couples to be sterilised and unborn babies to be aborted, where there is disability, illness or “relevant mental disorders”. Poor people from ethnic minorities and disabled people have always been the target of racists and eugenicists everywhere. The simple test is whether we would permit such procedures here and, if not, what in the world are we doing funding them in China?

The latest reports from Feng Jia Zhuang and Long Tian Gou reveal a combination of religious repression and political coercion. Using their slogan, “It is better to have more graves than one more child”, the local authorities repeatedly raid people’s homes, confiscate the family’s property, round up the people and beat those who escape into nearby fields. Forced abortions have been performed on women in their last weeks of pregnancy. Several women have been forcibly sterilised against their will. Monstrous fines–bigger than an annual average income–are imposed on couples who do not comply.

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One villager had his legs so badly broken that he nearly died. When concerned relatives enquired about him they were arrested, abused and forced to pay a huge fine. Another villager unsuccessfully tried to sell his two children in an effort to have his wife freed from gaol. People are subjected to terrible torture. Men and women have been hung upside down; some have been squeezed into tiny spaces, such as under chairs; some have been exposed to the elements during extreme weather conditions for sustained periods. Some people have had their tongues burnt with electric batons to prevent them from invoking the help of God. Through our funding, we are collaborating in those crimes against humanity.

The systematic killing of little girls is now beginning to reveal itself in the population shift in China and in slave trade in women. At least 114 boys are now born in China for every 100 girls. The plight of women beyond birth is equally harrowing. The Human Rights Law Review details instances of women being taken from bed late at night and brought to 24-hour sterilisation clinics. It records examples of women being inserted with IUDs without their knowledge or consent immediately after giving birth and newborn babies being killed while still partly in the womb. Local officials who violate women’s rights are promoted for their ruthless cold-blooded efficiency.

Far from condemning such practices, the executive director of the UNFPA, Nafis Sadiq, said:

“China has every reason to feel proud and pleased with its remarkable achievements in its family planning policy and control of its population growth over the past 10 years. Now China could offer its experiences and special experts to other countries.”

Britain should have no part in the programmes. We should use our overseas budget to help those 800 million people who are racked by starvation or despair and who live below any rational definition of human decency. We should not use resources to fund such evil practices.

Wilberforce said in this Chamber nearly 200 years ago that we should

“Disclaim that dangerous sophistry that out of doing evil some good may come.”

I hope that it will not be long before we end the evil practice of funding forced abortions, forced sterilisation and oppression of women’s rights in China.

10.58 am

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House of Lords

Lord Alton of Liverpool:

This is a timely and topical debate, not least because of the decision in the past few days to award the Olympic Games to China, where coercive population control is regularly practised. Some Members of your Lordships’ House may have read an article in today’s Daily Telegraph by Sion Simon, who is the Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Erdington. He said:

 

“The totalitarian brutality of the Chinese government is not in dispute. By the regime’s own admission, it has executed more than 1,700 people in little more than the past two months. The most common crimes among the dead were forms of disobedience which in the rest of the world would be called expression”.

The decision on the venue for the Olympic Games has met huge criticism throughout the country. As an example of that, I cite yesterday’s Independent on Sunday:

 

“Optimists suggest that the Olympic spirit will ensure that China cleans up its human rights act in time for the Games”.

But, the paper says,

 

“Think again. No, we can expect the Beijing Games to model themselves on Berlin in 1936–with dissenters brutally swept aside in a grotesque attempt to showcase a totalitarian regime … Don’t be taken in”.

The reason for drawing a parallel with that decision is that over the past 20 years successive governments have argued that we should do business with China in the whole area of reproductive rights and that, sooner or later, we shall be effective in preventing the coercive population policies pursued there. I do not mention this issue simply because of a distaste for abuses of human rights in China; I have taken a long and sustained interest in this matter since the Chinese Government introduced the policy in 1980.

Indeed, looking back to my time in another place, together with the Member of Parliament for Congleton, Mrs Ann Winterton, in 1995 I initiated a debate there following the broadcast of a programme entitled “The Dying Rooms” by Channel 4. Brian Woods, the director of the programme, wrote about his harrowing visit to a number of orphanages in China at that time. He said:

 

“Every single baby in this orphanage was a girl … the only boys were mentally or physically disabled. 95 per cent of the babies we saw were able-bodied girls”.

He also said:

 

“The most shocking orphanage we visited lay, ironically, just twenty minutes from one of the five star international hotels that herald China’s emergence from economic isolation”.

That programme followed another broadcast by BBC2 called “Women of the Yellow Earth”. Both programmes highlighted how forced abortion, forced sterilisation and the forcible fitting of IUCDs for women had been commonplace in China since the one-child policy was introduced in 1980. The simple test that I suggested in the debate in another place in 1995

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was whether or not we would permit such procedures to take place here. If not, I asked, what in the world were we doing funding them in China?

At that time, I took those arguments to the then Minister responsible for overseas development, the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey. I had two meetings with her. I saw the present Secretary of State, Clare Short, for whom I have considerable respect, not long after she came to office. To use a phrase that probably explains that we both held trenchant views on either side of the argument, we held a very frank discussion.

The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, and Clare Short have argued consistently in the same context as the arguments put forward for the Olympic Games being held in Beijing–that is, if we were inside we might be able to affect the population policies being pursued by the Chinese Population Association. Successive governments have also argued that we do not fund the Chinese Population Association directly. However, no one has disputed that the funds that we do provide to the United Nations Population Fund–the UNFPA–and to the International Planned Parenthood Federation–IPPF–go into the CPA and, thence, into the one-child policy. Ministers have always accepted that, and I shall allude to it again during the course of my remarks.

During the past 15 years or so both in another place and here I have regularly tabled Questions to Ministers on these subjects. The noble Baroness, Lady Amos, replied to a Question which I tabled in March this year when I raised with her the matter of a report which appeared in the Sunday Times. I shall return to that report in a moment. In reply, she said:

 

“The incident in Hubei Province is deplorable, and the Government remain concerned about reports of reproductive abuses and other human rights abuses in China. But we also believe that programmes of the kind supported by UNFPA can contribute to improving policy and practice, and to helping to bring about a climate where coercion and abuse will no longer be tolerated”.–[Official Report, 6/3/01; cols. WA24-25.]

Therefore, the argument remains the same: if we stay within, somehow we shall be able to influence events. The purpose of this amendment is to say that surely the point has now been reached where we can see that that policy has not succeeded and that, therefore, the moment has now come to change the policy.

The report in the Sunday Times to which I referred was based on evidence produced by Amnesty International. Michael Sheridan said:

 

“A retired doctor had rescued the newborn child from the cesspit of a men’s lavatory, where he had been tossed to die. Liu Juyu took the baby to a clinic, where she was confronted by five birth control officials. Amnesty says they snatched the baby, threw him to the ground, kicked him and took him away to be drowned in a paddy field.

 

The child had been born in breach of local quotas enforced by the officials, who feared higher-level punishment if their targets were not met”.

In the same report, another case referred to,

 

“mass demonstrations … held in Changsha, Hunan province, after cadres tortured to death a man who would not reveal the whereabouts of his wife, who was believed to be pregnant”.

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Those are not lurid reports dreamed up by journalists. Amnesty International’s citing of that case highlighted the growing resistance in China to such brutal methods. Perhaps later in the week–I have tabled an Unstarred Question on these matters for Wednesday–I shall have the opportunity to return in further detail to what Amnesty said.

There has been a change of mood in relation to these issues. Considerable change has occurred in the United States, for example, following hearings in Congress held on 10th June 1998 to which I shall refer again in a moment. The very first act of the incoming Bush Administration was to stop the funding of such programmes.

Change has also taken place here. When Mr Gary Streeter was appointed as the spokesman on overseas aid for the Opposition, I went to see him and we had an extremely useful discussion. He promised me that he would take the issue most seriously. As a consequence, I was delighted to read in the Conservative Party manifesto at the general election an undertaking that these policies would be reassessed. Therefore, I was even more pleased when the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, moved this amendment today and provided us with the opportunity to discuss–not in an adversarial, partisan way–the issue further as the summer proceeds between now and Report stage on 16th October.

Instinctively, I would wish to divide the House on the matter, but not today. I want people to have the chance to consider the issue and to see whether we can make a common purpose and recognise that all the evidence that is emerging shows that the previous policy of hoping for the best is simply not working.

When Congressman Chris Smith spoke to the congressional hearing, he cited the example of the Nuremberg trials. He said then that forced abortion was rightly denounced as a crime against humanity by the Nuremberg tribunal. He said that the United Nations should be organising an international tribunal to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the Chinese population control programme. Indeed, he added, it continues to fund and congratulate them.

In evidence to that Select Committee, an extraordinary account was given by Gao Xiao Duan, who was herself a birth control official in China. She had managed to flee from China and gave evidence directly to Congress. She said:

 

“Should a woman be found pregnant without a certificate, abortion surgery is performed immediately, regardless of how many months she is pregnant”.

Elsewhere in her evidence, she said:

 

“Following are a few practices carried out in the wake of ‘planned-birth supervision’

 

I. House dismantling … this practice not only exists in our province, but in rural areas in other provinces as well”.

When referring to sterilisation she said:

 

“The proportion of women sterilized after giving birth is extraordinarily high”.

She continued:

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“During my 14-year tenure … I witnessed how many brothers and sisters were persecuted by the Chinese communist government for violating its ‘planned-birth policy.’ Many of them were crippled for life, and many of them were victims of mental disorders resulting from their abortions. Many families were ruined or destroyed. My conscience was always gnawing at my heart … Once I found a woman who was nine months pregnant, but did not have a birth-allowed certificate. According to the policy, she was forced to undergo an abortion surgery. In the operation room, I saw how the aborted child’s lips were suckling, how its limbs were stretching. A physician injected poison into its skull, and the child died, and it was thrown into the trashcan. To help a tyrant do evils was not what I wanted. I could not bear seeing all those mothers grief-stricken by induced delivery and sterilization. I could not live with this on my conscience. I, too, after all, am a mother”.

Harry Wu, the human rights activist who was imprisoned in China for many years, also gave evidence. There is not time this evening to go into great detail, but I am sure that Members of the Committee would wish to hear one or two of his statements. He said:

 

“In Communist China, grassroots PBP cadres”–

that is, planned birth policy cadres–

 

“are stationed in every village. Those communist party and government cadres are the most immediate tools for dominating the people … They must watch every woman in the village, their duty being to promptly force women violators to undergo sterilization and abortion surgeries … PBP is targeted against every woman, every family”.

The evidence continues to amass. The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture made available to me documents from the research directorate of the immigration and refugee board in Ottawa, Canada. In its evidence, it said:

 

“Beyond sheer population growth, the Chinese government has acknowledged that it is facing two difficult demographic issues–an ageing population and a growing gender imbalance … both of which are in part related to its population policies of the past decades”.

That refers to the fact that there is now a disproportionate balance between the sexes–about 120 boys are now born for every 100 girls. The Sunday Telegraph of 22nd September 1998 highlighted the consequences of that policy in an article entitled, “China’s kidnapped wives”. Of the practise of kidnapping young women, it stated:

 

“It has become a huge and lucrative business in China. In the five years up to 1996, 88,000 women who had been kidnapped were released by the police–and 143,000 kidnappers caught and prosecuted”.

That is a direct result of the fact that the number of women available is not the same as the number of men living in that country. The article continues:

 

“The kidnap trade has grown up for one simple reason: the massive imbalance of the sexes in the Chinese population. According to the Chinese Academy for Social Sciences, there are now 120 males for every 100 females in China.

 

The shortage of women is a result of Communist China’s one-baby rule–and the deep-grained peasant desire for that one baby to be a boy. Approximately nine out of every 10 of the millions of abortions performed in China each year are, experts say, aimed at getting rid of a female foetus”.

Those are some of the consequences of the approach. Another consequence is called the “little emperor” syndrome. Inevitably, if a baby is a single

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child, he or she is often doted on in such a way that he or she becomes spoilt and grows to be socially immature and unable to relate properly to other children.

The report that the medical foundation made available to me suggests that the policy simply does not work anyway. It states:

 

“Some sources question the efficacy of the country’s population policy, pointing out that the country’s fertility rate dropped significantly in the 1970s, but that there has been no subsequent marked decline after the policy’s implementation”.

The report also refers to corruption. Many officials abuse the system because they have more than one child although they require others to conform to the policy.

I realise that time is short and I do not intend to detain the Committee for much longer. However, this is a rare opportunity to debate a crucially important question. This country provides vast sums that go towards the policy. The UK Government gave the equivalent of £15 million to UNFPA in 1999 and the equivalent of £5.8 million to IPPS in 1999. In addition, they donated an estimated £39.5 million directly to China through concessionary financing arrangements.

There is much evidence showing the way in which the money has been abused. I could cite Dr John Aird’s book, Slaughter of the Innocents, or the evidence of Amnesty International or the medical foundation. A couple of years ago the BBC World Service reported that riots had broken out near the southern city of Gaozhou,

 

“after government officials moved in to enforce the country’s one child family planning policy”.

I have referred to the gender gap and the condition of orphanages. According to the latest available figures, which were compiled in 1994, about 1.7 million children are abandoned each year. The vast majority of those who are eventually admitted to orphanages are female, although some are disabled or in poor health.

China is the only country in the world in which it is illegal to have a brother or a sister. It is extraordinary that millions of pounds–British taxpayers’ funds–have been poured into those policies over the years. In this context we also need to consider the distorting effect on the population in that country and the abusive approach used in countries such as Tibet, in which the Tibetan population has been deliberately reduced by coercive population means. We should also consider the abuse of women through forced sterilisation, forced abortions and the forced fitting of IUCDs. Those matters and the massive destruction of life should cause us seriously to reconsider whether we should make our resources available to support such an approach. I therefore with great pleasure support the amendment.

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Universe Column

February 20th 2010

David Alton

 

Chen Guangchen is the blind self taught lawyer and human rights activist who was jailed in China after exposing the systematic use of coercive, forced abortion and sterilisation to implement China’s one child policy.

In 2006 Time magazine named him as one of 100 most influential men in the world.  One year earlier, Chen had been given a prison sentence of four years and three months. He was tortured and denied medical treatment. When I met his lawyers in Beijing they told me that he had been put in a cell with eighteen other prisoners. Those inmates were told not to converse or make contact with Chen.

Chen was also denied medical treatment and for many months his wife was prevented from visiting him. If he had been willing to withdraw his complaints and repent, Chen could have secured early release, but this extraordinary principled and courageous man refused to be cowed or to recant.  I told human rights officials in Beijing that one day Chen would be honoured as a national hero – a defender of women and human dignity.

Last September Chen was finally released from jail and his supporters greeted the news with relief. However, their happiness was diminished by a strictly enforced decision by the Shandong authorities to put his home out of bounds to visitors. No one was then permitted to speak to Chen or visit him. He and his wife have been confined to their quarters and only his seventy six year-old mother-in-law has been allowed to enter and leave, bringing occasional provisions.

That all changed when, last week, a video was smuggled out of his home. In the recording – which was secreted out of China thanks to a Chinese official who is outraged by Chen’s treatment – Chen detailed his degrading treatment and appalling denial of his basic human rights. Referring to his transfer from the Shandong jail to his home he said:

“I was in a small prison and now I am in a larger prison.”

22 agents constantly monitored him and devices have been installed in adjacent properties to jam his mobile phone signal. Their home is under constant surveillance – by 66 security officials.

Once the local officials discovered the existence of the video and its broadcast on the internet they retaliated with barbaric vindictiveness – violating China’s laws and standards of human decency – besmirching China’s reputation.  They punished Chen and his wife by beating them senseless. A local source told news agencies that “They cannot move from bed, and they have not been allowed to go to hospital.”

In Parliament last week I tabled questions to the British Government urging them to make representations on behalf of Chen and his family.

China is a huge country and it would be wrong to assume that the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, or senior officials approve of the barbarism of regional Communist Party officials. But, equally, if they now take no action against those responsible they will inevitably be tarred with the same brush.

While we must press for justice for Chen and his family we must also continue to express concern that public money from the U.K. has aided and abetted the heinous violations of human rights which Chen has set himself against.

The Chinese Population Association (CPA) has been a regular recipient of funds from International Planned Parenthood Federation and United Nations Population Fund – and whilst those organisations claim not to support coercion they are fully aware that the CPA is the agency which has been responsible for the one child policy. One of the most telling testimonies I have ever read came from Mrs.Gao Xiao Duan, who was one of the officials who ran a centre for forced abortions. She wept as she recalled one occasion when “a baby of nine months gestation” – born above the permitted quota “had poison injected into its skull and the child died and was thrown into a trash can.”

Amnesty International reported on the fate of another baby born above the permitted quotas and who was drowned at birth in Hebei Province; The Sunday Times reported a man tortured to death in Hunan after he refused to reveal the whereabouts of his pregnant wife; and, in 2005, when The Independent first reported Chen Guangcheng’s arrest, said that some of the 120,000 women who were coerced into having abortions were nine months into their pregnancies. Newspapers also reported the case of Jin Yani  who was  nine months pregnant when five officials pinned her to her bed and injected her with saline solution. The loss of blood nearly killed her – and, terrified, she went into hiding.

Chen’s wife, Mrs Yuan, once remarked: “I tell you, the darkness of the society is way beyond your imagination.”

Chinese people are some of the most cultivated people in the world and there is much about today’s China which fills me with deep admiration but the treatment of Chen and his wife and the behaviour of these provincial officials underlines the continuing challenge of matching extraordinary economic progress with the enhancement and protection of human rights.

Paradoxically, one of the consequences of the one child policy is that the Chinese economic miracle will be threatened by the policy’s distortion of the population – with increasingly numbers of elderly people without younger people to support them and a population where sex selection has led to the birth of 117 boys for every 100 girls – more than 35 million more males than females. Some of the other consequences are the trafficking of girls and most shockingly of all, according to The World Health Organisation, the highest level of female suicides in the world.

As the world has largely remained indifferent to the excesses of the one child policy Chen has been a brave and lonely voice. I once remarked that it had taken a blind man to see what we refused to see – the wholesale destruction of human life and the worst violation of women’s rights and some of the worst violence against women  anywhere in the world.

At the end of the You Tube video which has led to his latest suffering Chen says ”We the sons and daughters of our great nation should have the courage to defeat our own fears.” Chen would have had a soul-mate in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, imprisoned and executed on Hitler’s orders, and who wrote that:

“The most important question for the future is how we can find a basis for human life together, what spiritual laws we accept as the foundation of a meaningful human life.”

That will certainly be true in China –but what he went on to say has relevance to the rest of us:

“We have been the silent witnesses of evil deeds. What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straightforward men.”

And surely, in the life of Chen Guangchen we have a plain, honest and straightforward man – one who, like Bonhoeffer, has suffered for speaking out against evil and for what is right.

Chen’s You Tube Video can be watched at http://www.chinaaid.org/2011/02/exclusive-video-shows-ill-treatment.html?utm_source=BP_recent

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Universe Column

February 20th 2010

David Alton

 

Chen Guangchen is the blind self taught lawyer and human rights activist who was jailed in China after exposing the systematic use of coercive, forced  abortion and sterilisation to implement China’s one child policy.  As a consequence Chen was given a prison sentence of four years and three months. He was tortured and denied medical treatment. When I met his lawyers in Beijing they told me that he had been put in a cell with eighteen other prisoners. Those inmates were told not to converse or make contact with Chen.

Chen was also denied medical treatment and for many months his wife was denied the opportunity to visit him. Chen could have secured early release if he had been willing to withdraw his complaints and repent but this extraordinary principled and courageous man refused to be cowed or to recant.  When I met human rights officials in Beijing I told them that one day Chen would be honoured as a national hero – a defender of women and a defender of human dignity.

In September last Chen was finally released from jail and his supporters greeted the news with relief. However, their happiness was diminished by a strictly enforced decision by the Shanndong authorities to put his home out of bounds to visitors. No one has been able to speak to Chen or visit him. He and his wife have been confined to their quarters and only  his seventy six year-old mother-in-law has been permitted to enter and leave, bringing occasional provisions.

That all changed when, last week, a video was smuggled out of his home. In the recording – which was secreted out of China thanks to a Chinese official who is outraged by Chen’s treatment – Chen detailed his degrading treatment and appalling denial of his basic human rights. Referring to his transfer from the Shandong jail to his home he said:

“I was in a small prison and now I am in a larger prison.”

22 agents constantly monitored him and devices have been installed in adjacent properties to jam his mobile phone signal. Their home is under constant surveillance – by 66 security officials.

Once the local officials discovered the existence of the video and its broadcast on the internet they retaliated with barbaric vindictiveness – violating China’s laws and standards of human decency – besmirching China’s reputation.  They punished  Chen and his wife by beating them senseless. A local source told news agencies that “They cannot move from bed, and they have not been allowed to go to hospital.”

In Parliament last week I tabled questions to the British Government urging them to make representations on behalf of Chen and his family. China is a huge country and it would be wrong to assume thet the Chinese President,  Hu Jintao, or senior officials approve of the barbarism of regional Communist Party officials. But, equally, if they now take no action against those responsible they will inevitably be tarred with the same brush.

While we must press for  justice for Chen and his family we must continue to express concern that public money from the U.K. has aided an abetted the heinous violations of human rights which Chen has set himself against. The Chinese Population Association has been a regular recipient of funds from International Planned Parenthod Federation and  United Nations Population Fund – and whilst those organisations claim not support coercion they are fully aware that the CPA is the agency which has been responsible for the one child policy. One of the most telling testimonies I have ever read came from Mrs.Gao Xiao Duan, who was one of the officials who ran a centre for forced abortions. She wept as she recalled one occasion when “a baby of nine months gestation” – born above the permitted quota “had poison injected into its skull and the child died and was thrown into a trash can.”

Amnesty International reported on the fate of another baby born above the permitted quotas and who was drowned at irth in Hebei Province; The Sunday Times reported a man tortured to death in Hunan after he refused to reveal the whereabouts of his pregnant wife; and The Independent, when they first reported Chen Guangchen’s arrest, in 2005, said that some of the 120,000 women who were coerced into having abortions “were 9 months pregnant.”   Chen’s wife, Mrs Yuan, once remarked: “I tell you, the darkness of the society is way beyond your imagination.”

One of the consequences of the one child policy is that the Chinese economic miracle will be threatened by the distortion of the population – with an increasingly elderly popuation and where sex selection has led to the birth of 117 boys for every 100 girls – more than 35 million more males than females. Some of the other consequnecs are the trafficking of girls and most shockingly of all, according to the World Health Organisation, the hghest level of femal suicides in the world.

As successive Government have remained indifferent to the excesses of the one child policy Chen has been a brave and lonely voice. I one remarked that it had taken a blind man to see what we refused to see – the wholesale destruction of human life and the worst violation of women’s rights and some of the worst violence against women  anywhere in the world.

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china’s one child policy speaker:Lord Alton of Liverpool

China: EU Committee Report: Motion to Take Note (9 Jun 2010)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, Stars and Dragons: The EU and China deserves to be widely read. It is a comprehensive and engaging report to which the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, did great justice in his introductory remarks. Paragraph 43 of the report rightly states: “It is unrealistic and undesirable that a single EU-China relationship will replace relations between China and individual Member States. The two…

China: Aid — Question (8 Apr 2010)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, although many will welcome what the Minister said about the positive programmes for the relief of poverty in China, will he tell us what funding is currently being given by DfID to the UNFPA and the IPPF, which in turn give funds to the Chinese Population Association, not least in the light of the reports last week from Shandong province that newborn babies have been thrown into the…

Written Answers — House of Lords: China (8 Apr 2010)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of China about the one-child policy there; whether their representations covered the demographic effects of the policy; and what response they received.

World Food Prices (3 Jul 2008)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …again at what I think is a contentious assertion. As we have heard, major food riots and angry street protests are going on all around the world, probably in some 33 countries, and at least one Government have been dislodged as a result. Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, says that if the present crisis is not adequately addressed, one consequence could be social…

China: Human Rights (6 Feb 2006)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, following the arrest of the blind Chinese human rights activist, Cheng Guangcheng, for protesting against the compulsory sterilisation or abortion of 7,000 women in one county of the Shandong province over a four-month period and following the continued imprisonment or torture of political and religious dissenters in China, how do Her Majesty’s Government view Google’s self-serving…

China: EU Arms Trade Embargo (12 Jan 2004)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …the arms trade and human rights, can she tell us when Her Majesty’s Government last raised specific issues concerning political and religious violations of human rights with the Government of China, in particular the suppression of the Falung Gong, the suppression of the underground House Church Movement in China, the occupation of Tibet, the suppression of political liberties and in…

International Development Bill [HL] (25 Oct 2001)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who have spoken to the amendment so eloquently and effectively. As the noble Lord reminded us, the amendment has its genesis in an amendment tabled at Committee stage by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. I supported the amendment then and am…

China: Human Rights (18 Jul 2001)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: rose to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of human rights abuses in China, and whether they intend to re-assess the funding of agencies involved in population control measures in China. I ask this Unstarred Question against the backdrop of massive violations and abuses of human rights in China. I am extremely grateful to those noble Lords from all sides of the House…

International Development Bill [H.L.] (16 Jul 2001)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: I signed Amendments Nos. 23 and 24, together with the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who apologises to the House, as she is on parliamentary business in Indonesia at the moment, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who is absent on parliamentary business elsewhere. It might be convenient to speak to Amendment No. 26A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, at…

Written Answers — House of Lords: China: One-child Policy (8 Mar 2001)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: asked Her Majesty’s Government: Whether they intend to raise the coercive methods used by China in enforcing its one-child policy at the United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting on 19 March.

Written Answers — House of Lords: China: Population Control (6 Mar 2001)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: asked Her Majesty’s Government: Whether they intend to support the Bush Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)

rose to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of human rights abuses in China, and whether they intend to re-assess the funding of agencies involved in population control measures in China.

I ask this Unstarred Question against the backdrop of massive violations and abuses of human rights in China. I am extremely grateful to those noble Lords from all sides of the House who have indicated their willingness to contribute to the debate.

Amnesty International has pointed out that the Chinese,

“in their latest ‘strike hard campaign’, have managed to execute more people in three months than the rest of the world put together for the last three years”.

Over 1,700 people have been executed since April. Amnesty states that:

“few would have received a fair trial”.

Political rights, freedom of expression and association, the abuse of religious liberties and intolerable interference in people’s personal and family lives all characterise life in China today. Yet we appear remarkably silent and complacent. From the decision to stage the Olympic Games in Beijing to our silence on Tibet, from our continued aid programme and deepening of business ties, we have demonstrated a calculated indifference to widespread suffering and misery in that country.

Today, I wish briefly to concentrate on two specific instances of human rights abuses. On Monday last, during the Committee stage of the International Development Bill, I supported an amendment from the Opposition Front Bench seeking to end British funding for agencies involved in the one-child policy in China. During my speech, reported at column 1327 of the Official Report, I documented examples of appalling abuses of the human rights of women and their families. On 16th October, the House will return to these issues at Report stage. I hope that Her Majesty’s Government will use the intervening period to reflect on the evidence that I laid before your Lordships’ House.

In particular, I hope that the Government will reassess their argument that because there is a non-coercive population policy being pursued in 32 counties, this mitigates the use of coercion in the other 2,500 counties in China, or in its 335 prefectures, 666 cities and 717 other urban districts.

This barbaric policy of forced abortion, the compulsory sterilisation of women and the compulsory fitting of inter-uterine devices, accompanied by infanticide and terror, has been pursued now for some 20 years. British taxpayers’ money has been poured into the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the United Nations Population Fund, which in turn pour money into two agencies of the Chinese communist state, the SFPC (State Family Planning Commission) and the CFPA (Chinese Family Planning Association).

The CFPA is a full member of IPPF and has been headed since its inception by Chinese government officials. It has a declared aim to “implement government population policies”. Quin Zinzhong, one of the Ministers who has overseen that policy, said:

“The size of the family is far too important to be left to the couple. Births are a matter of state planning”.

In one province the slogan,

“It is better to have more graves than one more child”,

has been used.

Over the past 20 years, apologists for this policy have argued that it needs time to work; that the West will ultimately be able to influence a more enlightened approach; and that this funding is a legitimate use of our aid programme. But I invite your Lordships to measure those arguments against the following four reference points and to ask what horrors have to occur before we, like the American Administration, reassess this policy.

First, Catherine Baber of Amnesty International, says:

“We are especially worried about people being put into detention to put pressure on pregnant relatives to undergo forced abortions. As far as we are concerned, that amounts to torture”.

Secondly, the US State Department confirmed in a recent report that women had been incarcerated in “re-education centres” and “forced to submit to abortions”. Thirdly, the BBC reported that refugees arriving in Australia had cited coercive family planning as one of their reasons for leaving China. And, fourthly, Tibetan dissidents, who were quoted in the Tibet Vigil on 24th August last year, said:

“What is the UK doing helping to fund birth control policies in Tibet, an occupied country? . . . China’s inhumane policies of enforced sterilisation and abortion amount to genocide”.

In an intervention in the debate on Monday, I cited the Government’s own document, China: Population Issues, where the department admits that the involvement of the UNFPA and the IPPF has,

“not led the Chinese to moderate their policies or to stop abuses”.

The former executive director of the UNFPA, Nafis Sadiq, said:

“China has every reason to feel proud and pleased with its remarkable achievements in family planning policy . . . Now China could offer its experiences and special experts to other countries”.

A few weeks ago, Amnesty International highlighted the cases of a baby boy, born above the permitted quota level, who was kicked to death by family planning officials. That case was reported in the Sunday Times. Amnesty International also reported the case of a man who was tortured to death because he would not reveal the whereabouts of his pregnant wife. I find it extraordinary that no-one disputes that these outrages occur daily, and yet we persist in issuing weak words of disapproval and providing funding which finds its way to the perpetrators of these deeds.

China’s repression of its citizens also manifests itself through religious persecution. The 1989 events culminating in the Tiananmen Square massacre precipitated an increased repression of all activity which the Chinese state perceived as a threat, including religious practice. The tone was set by “Document No. 6” issued by the Communist Party Central Committee in February 1991, which called for the elimination of all “illegal” religious groups. Within the last year, 130 evangelical Christians were detained in Henan province. They were all members of the Fangcheng Church, one of many Protestant house churches. They were sent to re-education centres.

Amnesty International say that 24 Roman Catholics, including a priest and 20 nuns, were detained in Fujian province, where police found them holding church services in a mushroom processing factory. Father Liu Shaozhang was so badly beaten by police that he vomited blood, and the whereabouts of many of the other detainees remains unknown.

Many of your Lordships will have seen the report which appeared recently in The Times. It concerned a 79 year-old Catholic bishop who had been re-arrested. He had already spent 30 years in Chinese prisons. The report from Oliver August said:

“Bishop Shi has long been a target of police harassment. A police spokesman said: ‘We have been hunting for him since 1996’ . . . ordained in 1982 after spending 30 years in prison. He was back in a labour camp between 1990 and 1993”.

And he has subsequently been re-arrested.

When I wrote to the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in London, I received a reply dated 19th June from Zhao Jun, the charge d’affaires, who said:

“in China, religious believers have not been subjected to suppression or prosecution in whatever form. No religious believers have been punished for their religious belief or normal religious activities. They will be dealt with only when they violate the law. The policy of freedom of religious belief remains unchanged”.

But whether it is in regard to the Falun Gong, Buddhist monks and priests, Christian evangelicals or Catholics, all the evidence that has been accumulated by both the human rights group, the Jubilee Campaign, and by Amnesty International proves otherwise.

I have four specific suggestions. First, that there should be sustained international pressure on the Chinese Government to permit religious freedom in China and to release all those detained for their peaceful religious beliefs and practices. Secondly, that the system of official religious organisations and the requirement that one must join them in order to worship should be abolished. These organisations are often used as instruments of control and repression by the state. Thirdly, that the restrictions placed on the publishing and distribution of the Bible in China should be lifted. Fourthly, the state’s prohibition against Sunday schools and the giving of Christian teaching and baptism to young people under the age of 18 should also be lifted.

China systematically uses re-education centres and imprisonment for religious believers and political reformers. These include political dissidents, such as members of the banned China Democratic Party, and anti-corruption and environmental campaigners. Suppression of the Internet, arrests, detentions, unfair trials and executions, the imprisonment of hundreds of Buddhist monks, Christians and members of Falun Gong, and the barbaric treatment of women and children through the one-child policy, must surely cause each one of us to question how we can persist with a policy of business, sport and aid as usual.

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8:08 pm

2001 – Lord Alton of Liverpool: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Is the noble Baroness able to confirm that her department’s publication China: Population Issues states:

“Critics of this position argue that several years of UNFPA and IPPF involvement in China has not led the Chinese to moderate their policies or stop abuses in the implementation of policy. This is true”?

Baroness Amos: As I have said, we have evidence that the work of UNFPA in the 32 Chinese counties has led to a decrease in the induced abortion rate. That is the aim of the work within the context of the principles agreed in Cairo. Therefore, the Government’s policy is in line with the sentiment behind these amendments.

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