China’s One-Child policy, announced in 1979, is state-sponsored violence against women and children. The Nuremberg Nazi war crimes tribunal properly construed forced abortion as a crime against humanity. Nothing in human history compares to the magnitude of China’s thirty-five-year assault on women and children.
Hundreds of millions of lives have been exterminated.
Today, in China, rather than being given maternal care, pregnant women without birth-allowed permits are hunted down and forced to undergo an abortion. They are mocked, belittled, humiliated, and exploited. A mother has absolutely no right or legal standing to protect her unborn baby or herself from state-sponsored violence. There are no single moms in China—except those who somehow evade the family planning cadres and conceal their pregnancy. Beijing’s One-Child Policy bans single moms from obtaining government permission to carry the child to term.
For more than three decades, most brothers and sisters have been illegal. And the price for failing to conform to the limit of one child per couple is staggering. A Chinese woman who becomes pregnant without a government permit will be put under mind-bending pressure to abort. She knows that “out-of-plan” illegal children are denied education, health care, and marriage, and that fines for bearing a child without a birth permit can be ten times the average annual income of two parents. Families who can’t or won’t pay are jailed, or their homes are smashed.
If the brave woman still refuses to submit, she may be held in a punishment cell. If she flees, her relatives may be held and, very often, beaten. Group punishments will be used to socially ostracize her. Often, her colleagues and neighbors will be denied birth permits. If the woman is, by some miracle, still able to resist this pressure, she may be physically dragged to the operating table and forced to undergo an abortion.
The result of this policy is a nightmarish “brave new world” with no precedent in human history, where women are psychologically wounded, girls are the victims of sex-selective abortion, and children grow up without brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or cousins. The United States government must take active steps to fight this atrocity.
What Is Congress Doing to Fight the One-Child Policy?
Over the years, I have chaired almost fifty congressional human rights hearings focused in whole or in part on China’s One-Child Policy. Four of my hearings were focused on the great Chen Guangcheng—the self-taught lawyer who defended women from this vicious policy. And what a price he paid. Jail. Beatings. Torture. I know of no other person on Earth who has personally suffered so much for attempting to stop this cruelty to women. He is a hero.
Reggie Littlejohn also appeared at my hearings. Each time, she provided incisive testimony and a plan of action. Reggie and her organization, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, have courageously and tenaciously defended the women of China, challenging governments, NGOs, and the UN to cease their enabling and complicity.
Chai Ling—one of the heroes of Tiananmen Square—has also been amazingly effective. Ling, who founded the NGO All Girls Allowed that seeks to protect the girl child from gendercide, has testified numerous times as well and has rescued over a thousand girls in China from sex-selective abortion.
Over the years, my committee has also heard testimony from numerous victims. Wujian, a Chinese student attending a US university, testified about how her child and other children were murdered by the government. She said, “[T]he room was full of moms who had just gone through a forced abortion. Some moms were crying. Some moms were mourning. Some moms were screaming. And one mom was rolling on the floor with unbearable pain.” Then Wujian said it was her turn, and through her tears she described what she called her “journey in hell.”
Sometimes those who commit these crimes are remorseful. A woman who ran the forced abortion program in Fujian escaped China and told my committee that she was a “monster” and compelled women to abort—even in the ninth month of pregnancy—despite pleadings and tears from the mothers. Although haunted by it today, she said she carried out her “duty” with “resoluteness.”
The One-Child Policy Increases Human Trafficking
Women bear the major brunt of the One-Child policy—and not only as victimized mothers. Due to the male preference in China’s society and family size limitation, the policy has caused what is accurately described as gendercide—the extermination of the girl child in society simply because she happens to be a girl.
The Chinese government’s barbaric attack on mothers and their children has led to tens of millions of missing daughters in China today. As a result, China has become the human sex trafficking magnet of the world. Women and young girls from outside the country are being sold as commodities throughout China—a direct consequence of the One-Child Policy.
I am the author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the comprehensive landmark law to prevent trafficking, prosecute traffickers and protect victims from modern-day slavery. One provision of the law requires an annual assessment of every country. The 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report stated:
China’s birth limitation policy, coupled with a cultural preference for sons, creates a skewed sex ratio in China, which served as a key cause of trafficking of foreign women as brides for Chinese men and for forced prostitution. . . .
The government took no discernible steps to address the role that its birth limitation policy plays in fueling human trafficking in China, with gaping gender disparities resulting in a shortage of female marriage partners. The government failed to take any steps to change the policy; and in fact, according to the Chinese government, the number of foreign female trafficking victims in China rose substantially in the reporting period. The Director of the Ministry of Public Security’s Anti-Trafficking Task Force stated in the reporting period that “[t]he number of foreign women trafficked to China is definitely rising” and that “great demand from buyers as well as traditional preferences for boys in Chinese families are the main culprits fueling trafficking in China. [Emphases added.]
Recently, an op-ed in the People’s Daily—the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party—shed light on the worsening demographic catastrophe that is China. The article, titled “Leftover men to be a big problem,” admits that there is a “bachelors” crisis that will “trigger a moral crisis of marriage and family” and the “continual accumulation of the number of unmarried men will greatly increase the risk of social instability.”
At another congressional hearing I chaired, BYU Professor Valerie Hudson, author of Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population, testified that “by year 2020 young adult bare branches—ages 15-34 will number approximately 23-25 million . . . the foremost repercussions will be an increase in societal instability, marked increases in crime, crimes against woman . . . and the formation of gangs . . .” Assessing security and the potential for war, Professor Hudson continued:
faced with worsening instability at home, and an unsolvable economic decline at home [as China ages] China’s government may well be tempted to use foreign policy to “ride the tiger” of domestic instability. The twin themes of anti-Japanese feeling and fulfillment of China’s reunification with Taiwan will be deeply resonant to much of the population of China. In the next two or three decades, we are likely to see observable security ramifications of the masculinization of China’s growing young adult population, especially combined with an understanding of the consequences of global aging . . .
In her book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, Mara Hvistendahl writes: “There are over 160 million females missing from Asia’s population”—about equal to all the women and girls living in the entire United States of America.
Our Administration’s Response
On a visit to China, Vice President Joe Biden told the audience that he was well aware of and “fully understood” the One-Child Policy, and that he was not “second-guessing” the state for imposing it. Can you imagine what the public reaction would be if the vice president had said that he “fully understands” and is not “second-guessing” copyright infringement and gross violations of intellectual property rights?
The One-Child Policy is the most egregious, vicious attack on women ever. For the vice president of the United States to publicly state his support for the One-Child Policy is unconscionable.
Although Vice President Biden attempted to backtrack on his extraordinarily callous comment about the policy, his voting record as a senator shines a spotlight on his long-held disregard for the severity of this human rights violation. On September 13, 2000, he joined fifty-two other senators in defeating an amendment by then-Senator Jesse Helms condemning the One-Child Policy. Reportedly, he did so because he was concerned that condemning China on fundamental human rights would interfere with the normalization of trade relations.
I also asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a hearing whether she or President Obama raised the issue of forced abortion in China directly in a face-to-face manner with President Hu Jintao when he was in Washington. She refused to answer my question, promising to get back to me. I never received a response.
Under Obama, the US Monetarily Supports the One-Child Policy
No evidence suggests that President Obama has ever raised the plight of Chinese women being compelled to undergo abortion with Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping, or anyone else. So much for the cheap sophistry of choice.
I respectfully submit that not only is the Obama Administration turning a blind eye to the atrocities being committed under the One-Child Policy, but it is also contributing financial support—contrary to US law—to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Thirty years ago, I authored the first amendment ever to a foreign aid bill to deny funding to organizations such as the UNFPA that are complicit with China’s forced abortion and involuntary sterilization policies. It passed. Jack Kemp and Senator Bob Kasten made it law. The Kemp-Kasten Amendment remains part of the foreign operations appropriations law, yet under President Obama it has not been taken seriously.
Unlike Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Bush, Mr. Obama thus far has provided $227 million in taxpayer funds to the UNFPA, an organization that supports, plans, implements, defends, and whitewashes the Chinese government’s brutal program.
On one of several human rights trips to Beijing, I challenged Peng Peiyun—then China’s director of the nation’s population control program—to end the coercion. Madame Peng told me that the UNFPA was very supportive of the one child per couple program and that the UNFPA adamantly agrees with her that the program is voluntary and that coercion doesn’t exist.
For over three decades, the UNFPA has consistently heaped praise on China’s population control program and repeatedly urged other countries to embrace similar policies. A few years ago, the UNFPA and the Chinese government rolled out the red carpet and hosted high level diplomats from Africa including health ministers to sell “child limitation” policies. Despite the fact that China’s enforcement mechanism relies on heavy coercion and its aging population will soon implode its economy, some African leaders seem to have taken the bait.
We Must Do Better
In 2000, I wrote a law seeking to end the United States’ support for the brutal practices of forced abortion and sterilization: The Admiral James W. Nance and Meg Donovan Foreign Relations Authorization Act. That Act requires the Secretary of State not to issue any visa to, and the Attorney General not to admit to the United States, any foreign national whom the Secretary finds, based on credible and specific information, to have been directly involved in the establishment or enforcement of forced abortion or forced sterilization.
Owing to a glaring lack of implementation, only a handful of abusers have been denied visas to the United States. The next president has got to do a better job.
Chris Smith has been the US Representative for New Jersey’s 4th congressional district since 1981. This essay is adapted from a speech delivered at the Heritage Foundation on October 9, 2014.