Chen Guangcheng’s Fight Against Forced Abortion
Sarah Torre /
Commentary continues to swirl around human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng’s treatment by the U.S. embassy in Beijing and by Chinese officials.
While the future of U.S.–China relations on the matter remains to be seen, international concern for Chen’s plight has refocused attention on the horrific human rights atrocities of China’s one-child policy, which Chen has sacrificed his livelihood and now safety to expose.
A well-known forced abortion opponent in China and the around the world, Chen has found himself a victim of the country’s disregard for the rule of law and basic human rights for many years. Chen, a self-taught legal advocate, spent four years in prison for his work in exposing the thousands of forced abortions and sterilization procedures performed on women in Linyi, Shandong province, by government population control officials.
Since his release from prison in 2010, the outspoken activist, his wife, and two children have been confined to de facto house arrest, without trial and without so much as formal charges against Chen.
Before his arrest in 2006, the human rights advocate would often hold meetings with members of the Linyi community, hearing heart-wrenching stories from women forced to undergo third-trimester abortions, men sterilized against their will, and individuals tortured and harassed because a family member was pregnant with an unauthorized child.
Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, has released a report detailing notes from some of Chen’s investigations of abuse and coercion in Linyi. Included are numerous stories of involuntary sterilization, intimidation tactics, extortion, and outright assault of family members or neighbors of women who were discovered to be pregnant without permission.
China’s mistreatment of Chen and ignorance of the rule of law and human rights is just an extension of the disregard for human dignity inherent in the country’s one-child policy. Possibly the most obvious example of China’s disregard for freedom, the one-child policy has caused untold physical and emotional suffering for women and men throughout the country since it was first announced in 1980.
Worse, the one-child policy—coupled with a cultural preference for boys—has nearly devastated China’s female population. Sex-selective abortion, abandonment, and infanticide has resulted in almost 40 million “missing” Chinese girls since 1980.
In just a few short decades, China could face serious societal problems because of its insistence on sacrificing human dignity at the altar of “population control.” Increased crime, substance abuse, violence against women, and gang activity, researchers predict, will likely mar China’s future as millions of young Chinese men are demographically prohibited from settling down into the socializing institution of marriage.
Already, reports of human trafficking from surrounding countries to alleviate the shortage of women are demonstrating the profoundly detrimental effects of China’s one-child policy on human rights.
The United States and other international leaders who claim to support individual freedom and human dignity must stand with Chen Guangcheng, individually, and with all of people of China in denouncing the human rights abuses perpetrated under the country’s coercive population control policies.
Bob Fu, founder and president of China Aid Association, outlined the stakes: “China’s future will be built by those who act with Chen’s integrity and seek the light of justice, equality and freedom for all Chinese citizens. China will move toward the ‘right side of history’ only when it recognizes that people like Chen are its strength, not its enemy.”
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China will hold an emergency hearing from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. this afternoon on Capitol Hill to discuss the history of Chen’s advocacy and current situation. Testifying will be Fu, Littlejohn, and other human rights advocates.
Watch now: Heritage hosted a press conference on “Chinese Dissident Chen Guangcheng” this afternoon.