During an agonizing congressional hearing last week, a young Chinese woman named Wujuan brought horrifying clarity to complex questions surrounding relations between the United States and China.
How hard should President Barack Obama press Chinese officials on their human rights record on his current trip to the region? For Wujuan (an alias the young woman used for protection), the answer comes in the form of a mental image she can't shake: the bloody foot of her nearly full-term child, torn apart by a forced abortion in a small village in northern China in 2004.
Wujuan joined other Chinese activists in testifying that Chinese officials still allow forced abortions, sterilization, and infanticide to enforce the country's one-child policy. ChinaAid-a Christian-based human rights organization-presented a slew of firsthand testimonies from women who say they endured forced abortions. The group's representatives asked Congress and President Obama to question China's population policies.
It's unclear whether the president will bring up such matters while in China, though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did call forced abortions and sterilizations "absolutely unacceptable" earlier this year. Obama is sure to discuss crucial fiscal issues with officials from the economic giant, and he'll likely talk about China's dealings with North Korea, its increasingly dangerous neighbor.
Meanwhile, human rights activists remain worried about the danger facing unborn children in the communist nation. With the country's one-child policy turning 30-years-old this year, some activists estimate the government has deterred some 400 million births. Some women have chosen abortions, but many have lost an aggressive battle to keep their children.
During her testimony, Wujuan recounted what she called her "journey in hell": learning she was pregnant without a required birth permit from the Chinese government; hiding from authorities in a dilapidated house with no electricity in a remote area as her baby grew in her womb; being discovered by authorities and forced into a grisly hospital with other pregnant women facing a similar fate. Finally, she told the excruciating end: begging for her child's life as doctors pulled the baby apart with scissors.
If Wujuan's story is nearly too terrible to absorb, it's also too terrible to ignore. Reggie Littlejohn of Women's Rights Without Frontiers testified that China's one-child policy "causes more violence against women and girls than any other official policy on earth." Littlejohn said forced abortions often entail officials dragging women from their homes and inflicting violence that kills the unborn child and sometimes the mother.
The activist also pointed to a document recently leaked from a current website for Chinese gynecologists and obstetricians that discusses methods of infanticide for babies surviving abortions. She called on Obama to challenge the Chinese government on its violent policies.
In the meantime, Chinese women without birth permits continue to fear family planning officials that scout villages and cities, seeking to enforce the one-child rule. And women like Wujuan continue to grapple with grief and guilt over their own forced abortions. Wujuan told the congressional committee that only God's forgiveness and her new-found Christian faith sustain her, and that she believes she'll see her baby again: "If God allows, I will ask forgiveness from my baby when I see him in heaven."