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The Thirty Years War

"The Thirty Years War" Continued...

Issue: "How Mark Souder fell," June 19, 2010

One case was a pastor's wife pregnant with the couple's second child. When pastor Liang Yage refused to sign a consent form for the abortion, authorities signed it for him. When his wife delivered the stillborn child, the pastor said: "I felt desolate, so I didn't look up to see the baby."

The CECC report outlined a handful of brutal cases of forced abortions last year, including an account of a 35-year-old mother in Shandong province: Officials forced the woman to undergo an abortion in her ninth month of pregnancy. The abortive injection reportedly caused massive hemorrhaging, killing the mother.

In other cases, authorities force citizens to undergo sterilization to prevent unauthorized births. The Times of London reported in April that officials in Puning County had launched a 20-day campaign to sterilize 10,000 men and women. Doctors were working from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 a.m. the following day. When thousands refused to submit, authorities detained their relatives in cramped quarters in towns across the county until they relented.

Beyond deplorable humanitarian conditions, the policy is also wreaking demographic havoc in China, according to some experts. The United Nations reports a hugely disproportionate sex ratio in China: From 2000 to 2005, some 121 boys were born per every 100 girls in China. The global average is between 103 and 106.

Other Asian countries bear disproportionate sex ratios as well: The UN reports that Armenia and Azerbaijan had 117 boy births for every 100 girls in the same time period. South Korea had 110. India had 108, though some population experts say those figures are much higher in some regions of the country.

Though the countries don't have official population control policies like China, some experts say that a similar dynamic drives the high rate of male births: a preference for sons that leads some parents to selectively abort or abandon girls.

The numbers have obvious consequences. In January, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences projected that by 2020 China would have 30 million to 40 million more men than women under the age of 20. That means one in five young men may not be able to find a native-born wife within 10 years.

A dearth of women in China has already led to human trafficking from surrounding countries. The U.S. State Department reports that women and children are trafficked to China from such countries as "Mongolia, Burma, North Korea, Russia, Vietnam, Romania, and Ghana for purposes of forced labor, marriage, and sexual slavery."

Nicholas Eberstadt-a senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research-underscores another problem: declining fertility rates that lead to a shrinking working-age population. Those declines could lead to a shrinking labor force within another decade, and a disproportionately elderly population. "These problems will compromise economic development, strain social harmony and place the traditional Chinese family structure under severe pressure," he said in the Far Eastern Economic Review. "In fact, they could shake Chinese civilization to its very foundations." Yi-the Chinese physician in Wisconsin-is even more pessimistic: "China is committing suicide."

The Chinese government has taken small steps to address the problems, promoting a "Care for Girls" campaign aimed at encouraging female births and gender equality. But lasting change will take far more radical steps. Some Chinese experts advocate adjusting the one-child policy to allow additional births. Others-like Eberstadt and Yi-say the country should abandon it completely.

For now, activists like Reggie Littlejohn are worried about women and children in China. Littlejohn, founder of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, a group devoted to fighting forced abortion and sexual slavery in China, says the one-child policy is "devastating" the female population of China.

Littlejohn says U.S. officials should press Chinese authorities about issues like forced abortion. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the practice during congressional hearings last April, but Littlejohn thinks the Obama administration should address the issue directly with Chinese leaders.

Michael Posner, assistant secretary of state, held human-rights talks with Chinese officials in May, but he didn't report discussions of the country's population policies. (Posner did say he told Chinese officials that Arizona's new immigration law is a "troubling trend" in American society.)

In the meantime, women and children suffering in China have little recourse for finding help, says Littlejohn. Back in Boston, Chai hopes that her new group can equip grassroots organizations and NGOs in China to help families. For now, that work often falls to house churches-congregations not officially recognized by the state.

A Chinese house-church pastor-who requested anonymity to protect his work-said churches are afraid to speak publicly against the one-child policy for fear of reprisal. But he says Christians are quietly taking care of the needy: The pastor said he has helped hide pregnant women until they deliver a second child. He says his church privately cares for nearly a dozen children who are abandoned or orphaned. Several have significant disabilities. And the pastor is personally raising two abandoned children: one he discovered left in a hospital and one he found along the road.

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