The contrast with the American presidential election campaign could not be greater but this week the Chinese Communist Party made its once in a decade transfer of power to a new Politburo of one-party State appointees. President, Hu Jintao is expected to hand over the reins of power in March.
Before he leaves office there is one last question which President Hu should address – and which would earn him widespread respect and admiration: it is a brutal and discriminatory policy which for 32 years has tarnished the reputation of a great country and which has left a trail of misery. Last month the United Nations commemorated its International Day of the Girl: highlighting the 100 million girls who are the victims of domestic violence, compulsory veiling, the sex trade, trafficking, bonded labour, forced marriages, genital mutilation, and sexual abuse. In China – and elsewhere – that discrimination begins even before birth, when the three most dangerous and deadly words which can be uttered are the words “It’s a girl”
Thirty two years ago China passed a law which institutionalised the routine killing of little girls, merely because of their sex. It’s a policy which shamefully has been indirectly aided and abetted by British taxpayers money.
Statistics related to the birth control policy are staggering.
The Chinese government says about thirteen million abortions are carried out every year. That amounts to one thousand, four hundred and fifty eight every sixty minutes or, to put it another way, a Tiananmen Square massacre every hour. The vast majority, of course, are girls. China’s One Child Policy and the country’s traditional preference for boys have led to widespread abandonment, infanticide, and forced abortions.
China’s One Child Policy causes more violence against women and girls than any other policy on earth – than any official policy in the history of the world.
A story which broke in June of this year and which caused outrage throughout the world illustrates the brutal and discriminatory nature of this policy. Feng Jianmei was forcibly aborted at seven months when she and her husband, Deng Jiyuan were unable to pay a fine of almost £4,000. Having fled to the mountains officials tracked her down, found her hiding under a bed, forcibly aborted her baby and left the bloody body of that little girl next to her on her bed.
Then, in July, a man in Anshan city in northeast China was rummaging through a garbage bin for recyclables when he caught sight of a small plastic bag.
When he removed the bag and looked inside, what he saw would have shocked and sickened any civilized human being.
Inside was a newborn baby girl with a deep cut to her throat. She was so newborn that her placenta and umbilical cord were still attached. Her entire tiny body was covered in blood.
Luckily for her, local residents got her to hospital and, as far as we know, the baby’s life was saved.
Earlier in the year, in March, A photo of a forcibly aborted full term baby drowned in a bucket, submitted anonymously, circulated on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, and in the West. The infant was reported to have cried cried at birth, before being drowned in a bucket by family planning officials.Also in March, in Jiangxi Province, a 46-year-old woman was forcibly sterilized, in retaliation for bringing a petition against the one child policy. The woman posted the following account on the internet:
“The town government sent more than 20 strong men. I could no longer give birth to a child at that time, but they still dragged my legs, treated me like an animal, and forcibly performed a tubal ligation on the operating table of the Family Planning Office.”
Centuries-old tradition, combined with government-enforced birth control policies, have had horrifying and devastating consequences.
But while China is by far the leader in this appalling trend, it’s by no means alone. India, with its history of deadly discrimination against girls and women, is rapidly catching up. Today there are now markedly more males than females in India than there were in the early 1990s, and various regions are facing serious and growing gender imbalances.
One United Nations expert estimates that gendercide has cost the lives of around two hundred million women and girls worldwide over the past thirty years. It has also led to violence against citizens and sometimes to the murder of those who don’t comply with the policy.
Gendercide is also on the rise globally. As an international predilection for sex-selective abortion grows, so more and more women and girls are losing their lives or simply “missing”, the result of sterilization or other means. Western Asia, in particular, is a region of growing concern. And in February of this year undercover journalists discovered sex selection abortions taking place in the UK.
And this isn’t just about the loss of precious human life. The gender disparity it creates is causing a catalogue of other problems. China now has thirty-seven million more males than females, fuelling human trafficking and sexual slavery. As this spreads to neighbouring states, national security is threatened. China’s One Child Policy is also fostering an ageing population without young people to support them – an anomaly expected to hit the country within the next twenty years.
What was therefore a policy enforced for economic reasons has ironically now become China’s economic death sentence.
Many Chinese people have been urging Hu Jintao to abandon the one child policy and there are signs that the protests are having their effect. One man in particular has done more than anyone to force open the debate about gendercide. In April of this year the blind self taught lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who spent four years in prison for opposing the policy, escaped house arrest, finding safe passage to the United States.
We can learn much from his example. Chen’s bravery and heroism has inspired many Chinese dissidents and campaigners around the world. He has seen what sighted people have failed to see; spoken out when those of us with free speech have failed to do so.
In a recent interview, Chen said he was confident reform will come to China, but stressed that if everyone made an effort to build a more just and civil society, then it would come faster. Here’s one thing each of us can do:
A brilliant new hour-long film, entitled “It’s A Girl” was recently premiered at Westminster at a meeting which I chaired. The film conveys a simple yet powerful message: that the words “It’s a girl” – usually proclaimed with such joy and celebration – are deadly for large populations of the world.
It is available to be seen in parishes and in small groups in people’s homes or in colleges. Anyone wishing to show the film should contact its maker, Andrew Brown firstname.lastname@example.org and there are more details at: