Recent news that the Chinese government is easing its one child policy is “very misleading” because they do not address the human rights violations at the policy's core, a leading critic says.
“The core of the policy is coercion,” Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, told CNA Nov. 15.
“The problem is, that the government is telling people how many kids they can have, and it is enforcing that limit coercively, including forcibly aborting women up to the ninth month of pregnancy.”
“Earlier this month a woman died in a forced abortion,” Littlejohn added, saying this fact is “startlingly absent” from the latest news report from the Chinese government-run news agency Xinhua.
The Chinese government on Nov. 15 said it would allow couples in which one parent is an only child to have a second child, Reuters reports. The change could affect millions of families.
The policy was implemented in the 1970s to control population growth. Officials now believe the policy harms economic growth and has rapidly aged the population without young people to support them, Reuters reports. China’s working age population decreased in 2012 for the first time in many years.
The population control measures have also created a sex imbalance. Due to a cultural preference for boys, unborn baby girls are more likely to be aborted. There are now 118 boys born for every 100 girls.
Some Chinese officials’ use of coercive abortion to meet population goals has also drawn significant domestic and international opposition.
Wang Feng, a sociology professor at Fudan University who specializes in demographics, said the policy change will have “minimal” impact on demographics but has “substantial” political significance.
“This is one of the most urgent policy changes that we've been awaiting for years. What this will mean is a very speedy abolishment of the one-child policy,” Wang told Reuters.
However, Littlejohn characterized the policy change as “a mere tweaking” based only on economic and demographic considerations, not a rejection of coercion.
“We have not seen any reduction in forced abortion or forced sterilization in the countryside,” she said. “It’s still rampant.”
She also criticized sex-targeted abortions that disproportionately kill unborn girls, terming this “gendercide,” and adding that major media should not ignore the coercive aspects of the policy.
“It’s really hard to sustain a movement to end a human rights atrocity when everyone thinks it’s ended already,” she said. “It’s really destructive to human rights for them to fail to address the human rights aspect of the one-child policy.
Previous news reports have also wrongly claimed an end to the policy was near, Littlejohn noted.