New Report Confirms: Human Rights Abuses Continue Under China’s Two-Child Policy

Caroline Savoie  

“A third baby is not allowed so we are renting a home away from our village. The local government carries out pregnancy examinations every three months. If we weren’t in hiding, they would have forced us to have an abortion,” a father of three in China told BBC reporter John Sudworth in a secret interview in 2016. Sudworth then asked him, “If they had come for your wife, to carry out this forced abortion, would it have been possible to resist? Could you have refused?” The father answered, “No we cannot resist. There would be many family planning officers to take us away. They would put us in a van, directly to the family planning office, for the abortion.”


The people of China and the grave human rights abuses they continue to suffer have not been forgotten by the United States. The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), led by Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith, recently released its annual report for 2017 confirming grave abuses continue under China’s universal two-child policy, enacted January 1, 2016.  Under this Population and Family Planning Law, where only married couples are allowed to have children and are limited to two children, “Chinese authorities continue to actively promote and implement coercive population planning policies that violate international standards,” says the report.


The report’s section on Population Control describes how forced compliance with the “population planning targets” is attained by forced abortion, invasive monitoring and control of women’s fertility, massive fines, job termination, and detention. The Chinese government continues to emphasize its birth limit and family planning guidelines as “basic national policy.”


The CECC’s report cites many instances of these human rights abuses, summarized below.


Forced Abortion


The report confirms that population planning regulations continue to exist at the provincial level that “instruct officials to carry out abortions, often referred to as ‘remedial measures’ (bujiu cuoshi), for ‘out-of-plan’ pregnancies.” The report cites family planning regulations from Jiangxi and Hubei provinces and the Shenzhen municipality.


Also noted are official reports from local government authorities which state that women are compelled to undergo the “four procedures” which are IUD insertion, sterilization, first trimester abortion, and mid- to late-term abortion. This is cited for the following: Gu County, Guichi District, Yunyang District, Wolong District, and Dongshahe Township.


Other reports have found this same abuse. The State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016 also found that coerced abortions continue to take place under China’s revised Population and Family Planning Law. The law states that a citizen’s “lawful rights” should not be violated in enforcing the family planning policy, yet the State Department’s report indicates that these rights are not clearly specified in the law. Also, there are seven activities listed in the law which are prohibited when officials implement the birth limit, and forced abortion is not one of them. The report notes there are regulations in Hunan, Hubei, and Liaoning provinces which require women to terminate pregnancies not in compliance with the law and confirms that these regulations have been enforced.


The Population Research Institute (PRI) has cited Hainan province’s Planned Birth rules which state in Article 23: “Those whose pregnancies do not conform to these Regulations, must promptly terminate their pregnancy. Those who still refuse to terminate their pregnancies after ‘persuasive education’ will be dealt with according to the relevant provisions of these Regulations.”  The ordinance in Hunan province reads: “Those whose pregnancies do not conform to the birth regulations instituted by law must promptly terminate their pregnancies. Those who do not promptly terminate their pregnancies will be ordered by the Township (Town) People’s Government or the subdistrict office to terminate their pregnancies within a given time limit.”


BBC’s investigative research also found that officials are still “engaging in coercive home visits with the aim of ‘persuading’ women to have abortions.” In an undercover phone conversation with family planning officials, a BBC reporter pretending to be pregnant with her third child which she wanted to keep was told, “If you’re reported to us, then we’ll find you and we’ll persuade you not to give birth to that baby.” And also, “We’ll definitely find you and persuade you to do an abortion.” When another official was asked if a mother can give birth to the baby and just pay the fines the official answered: “No. You just can’t.”


Invasive Monitoring and Control of Women’s Fertility


CECC cites reports of local government authorities maintaining “a low birth rate” as the goal of “family planning work” and flaunted their victories in meeting this goal by compelling women to undergo the invasive “three inspections” for IUD placement, pregnancy tests, and health inspections.


The State Department’s report also confirmed that women are being compelled by the government to “accept the insertion of IUDs by officials.” It notes that “married women of childbearing age” are required by law to undergo pregnancy tests and that some provinces have fined women who did not undergo the tests. The report also notes the law requires family planning bureaus to provide “follow up” services after pregnancy tests, but the services were not specified.


In the BBC’s investigations, a family planning official explained that his district requires women of childbearing age to report for two ultrasounds per year, and if a woman is found pregnant with an additional child “out of quota,” he said that she “will be advised accordingly.”


Coercive Social Compensation Fees and Child Discrimination


CECC’s report includes evidence of local authorities withholding hukou (household registration) when a child was not born in compliance with family planning regulations. This applies to both babies born to single mothers and those born out of the two-child birth quota. The parents were required to pay the “social compensation fees” for each birth in order to obtain hukou for the child. These heavy fines are severe punishments and according to CECC’s report, “reportedly compel many couples to choose between undergoing an unwanted abortion and incurring a fine much greater than the average annual income in their locality.” The report includes an example of this “social compensation fee” from the province of Fujian, where the fine can be up to six times the locality’s average yearly income. PRI found that the Planned Birth ordinances of Hainan, Hunan, Henan, and Liaoning provinces have fines two to ten times the yearly household income. Without hukou, children in China can be denied health care and education among other benefits. Those in China who do not have hukou are often referred to as “illegal residents.” China’s National Census Data from 2010 notes that there are approximately 13 million unregistered persons in China, 60 percent of whom were born “out of quota” and not in compliance with family planning policies. The CECC report does note that Chinese authorities are taking steps to address the problem of “illegal residents,” but that children born out of the birth quota are still subject to this discrimination.


Job Terminations  


The CECC report cites an article from the state-funded news site, Sixth Tone, which reported that a couple in the Guangdong province was six months pregnant and was told that they must have an abortion or lose their government jobs. Many citizens of this province have reportedly faced similar threats. PRI found regulations in Hubei, Hainan, Fujian, Guangdong, Guizhou, Jiangxi, Liaoning, Qinghai, Shanxi, and Yunnan provinces that require government employees to receive administrative sanctions if they exceed their birth limit, including termination of employment.


Sixth Tone also reported a woman being fired by a private company because she had given birth to her second child in November of 2015, two months before the two-child policy was enacted. She was fired in January of 2016. PRI found the provinces of Fujian, Hainan, and Yunnan required privately owned companies to impose sanctions and even fire employees who become pregnant or who give birth to an “illegal child.”


When any government unjustly exercises its authority, the people pay. In the case of the people of China, their government’s ironclad grip has sought to control the most personal and sacred aspect of family life, that of conceiving and rearing children. As such, decades of human rights abuses have wreaked havoc on family life, causing unprecedented suffering. The Chinese government has claimed that there have been 400 million abortions under its family planning policies.[1] China accounts for one quarter of all suicides committed in the world, and more women than men commit suicide in China, contrary to trends in western populations. Having the highest female suicide rate in the world, in the rural areas of China the leading cause of death for adult women is suicide.


The CECC report notes a large sex-ratio imbalance in China due to years of birth limits and traditional preference for male offspring. In 2015, the sex ratio at birth was 113.5 males to 100 females, compared to the normal ratio of 103-107 males to 100 females. It is estimated that over 30 million working-age men will not have a female counterpart by 2050. The CECC report also notes the international media’s suggested link between the large number of “surplus males” in China and the trafficking of women into China from North Korea, Vietnam, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Nepal for commercial sexual exploitation and forced marriages. Lastly, China has the largest population of elderly in the world. The CECC report noted that in 2016 there were 230.86 million elderly persons (age 60+) living in China, an increase of 8.86 million from 2015, many wondering who will support them in their old age.


Congressman Smith has said it well: “In the long line of Chinese Communist Party mistakes, the brutal enforcement of population control policies is the deadliest and most hated. The international community, led by the U.S., must insist that China abolish all birth restrictions, dismantle its family planning apparatus, compensate the victims of forced abortions and sterilizations, raise the legal and inheritance status of girls, and permanently close a dark and deadly chapter in Chinese history.”



Caroline Savoie is a research associate at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.


[1] This number has been contested as a flawed way of measuring the impact of China’s coercive policies. For one, it fails to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary abortions.


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