That woman, Feng Jianmei, has been a rallying point according to Bob Fu, founder and president of ChinaAid who has broken several stories about the atrocities Chinese women have had to face living under that country's one-child policy.
Feng was captured by Chinese officials in June while her husband was out after they discovered she was pregnant with her second child. The government officials forced her to sign a consent form and then injected her with a substance that caused her to give birth prematurely. She was almost 8 months pregnant.
The gruesome photo that quickly spread across the Internet was taken by Feng's sister-in-law, who leaked it onto Sina Weibo, a Chine microblog much like Twitter.
Feng's husband, Deng Jiyuan, fled his village where groups of people held banners claiming he and his family were traitors for taking the story of his wife to foreign journalists. The family has also been threatened with violence.
After traveling on foot for more than three days Deng arrived in Beijing where he met with a Christian human rights lawyer who took up the family's legal case. The case is now pending.
Baptist Press asked Fu about the affect of China's one-child policy on its people, including stories of families who have contacted his U.S.-based organization after being forced to abort their children, often late into the woman's pregnancy. Following is a transcript of the interview edited for length and clarity.
BAPTIST PRESS: Could you briefly explain the one-child policy?
BOB FU: One couple is only allowed to have one-child, except there are several exceptions. After the one-child policy was enacted there were several exceptions like if you're a minority group you are allowed to have the second one. In the past 10 years or so it also relaxed a little bit by saying if the first one was a girl, then if the girl grew to 10 years old then you can apply for the second pregnancy. This one-child per couple policy has been enforced pretty much by force all over China to really millions and millions of women every year.
BP: What is the significance of Feng's case and do you think it will have an impact on the debate of this issue?
FU: I think this case is very significant in the sense that one picture is worth 10,000 words. Although this horrible forced abortion had been practiced for more than nearly three decades, the international community has not really paid closer attention as it should be. The Chinese government rather boastfully made the announcement a few years ago in Copenhagen, Denmark, claiming that because of China's government effort for the family planning policy China has prevented 400 million children from being born in the past 30 years. Four hundred million lives lost like Jianmei's baby, and many of them, even as recently as this week we learned more stories, like one mother lost her baby because of a forced abortion two days before her due date. It's just a horrible, horrible atrocity. It's really the war against women and the war against humanity.
So I think this lady in that photo, Ms. Feng, and her baby fetus's photo really caused an outcry, and I think it could become a milestone for the Chinese government to change course. Of course, right now it has not produced that direct result yet. I noticed that just yesterday (July 4) some prominent, about a dozen Chinese prominent scholars who work within the communist party system -- they are government scholars -- they issued an open letter publicly questioning the legitimacy of the one-child policy that also, of course, said we are very doubtful that the Chinese economy would be able to sustain if the current one-child policy continues because of the rapid aging population and also the gender imbalance, the gendercide, because most of the aborted are girls.
I think also it caused an extraordinary international outcry. It seems to me this has been going on for so many decades for ordinary Chinese they already feel numbed, but from Jianmei's story and the exposure it seems the international community had a wakeup call. Today, just today (July 5), for the first time the European Parliament passed a very strong resolution citing from Jianmei's story and condemning the forced abortion practice, although it falls short of condemning the one-child policy and even insists that Europeans are still supporting the family planning system in China financially.
BP: What does forced abortion show about China? Does it show any insight on what's going on inside the nation?
FU: I was bitterly happy in a sense to see the exposure, the media attention by ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, all these media outlets paid attention to Jianmei's story. But at the same time I was surprised, you know, this is not new. This has been going on 30 years, and there are more brutal stories other than what Feng Jianmei had experienced. I think it shows the Chinese government's on one hand the propaganda has been largely successful even among Western, free society. On the other hand I think the Chinese people need to wake up and to fight for basic dignity of life. It took the extraordinary bravery of Feng Jianmei's sister-in-law who posted that photo on the website that became viral and then got that attention being paid.
All things need to work together and, that story now because of the exposure, it encouraged more and more of those who had that horrible experience to come out, and we have just received now many cases already into our office with ... documentation. There's photos. There's husbands who were forcibly sterilized with wounds and their wives experienced that, and there's horrible forced abortion. … It just gives a sharp contrast. Especially for a Christian community in the West, especially in America I think ... it's a wakeup call. Have they paid attention? Have they heard the stories from Jianmei? And it's time for them when they dine and wine with the Chinese communist leaders, it's time for them to see their eyes and tell them honestly unless there is a change of course there should be consequences. That's something I want to call upon the U.S. evangelical communities.
BP: Is this a local or a national problem in China, and do these forced abortions have the support of the Chinese government?
FU: These forced abortions have been going on for three decades, so it's not like just something that happened in the countryside. In 1982 there were about 14 million -- that one year -- family planning forced abortions, and then around 2000 that dropped to around 8 million and around 2008 it rose up to almost 10 million that year. So that's official Chinese statistics so it's a national-driven policy and practice. In every corner in China as long as you are a woman, your birthright, your womb is not owned by you, it's by the state. So the state and especially the family planning office has the single privilege and right and authority to check up with the little book anywhere, anytime. Your house can be destroyed, your career can be terminated, all the property can be destroyed at any time if you're deemed as a violator of this one-child policy. Your family members are all impacted, so it almost impacts every family household in China.
In recent years, of course, there's the fear because of the enormous penalty. That's another aspect for local officials to do this because they can impose four to six times of annual income as a penalty to a family. Even if you birth the baby, most people are bankrupted. Otherwise, if you don't pay the fine then you will be in a doomed status. We just received a case, a family, husband and wife with three children, and the wife had already experienced a forced abortion eight months into her pregnancy. They had been escaping from their hometown and roaming around the country for 21 years. The husband was captured and experienced a barbaric forced sterilization, and the wife was extremely traumatized. This is not a local issue. This is a state, a national government-driven policy. In recent years, of course, there are less and less cases of report because people are afraid to be pregnant.
BP: Do you have anything to say to members of U.S. churches? Do you have anything to ask of them?
FU: It's time for us to pray for those women, to take prayerful action, to help them -- many of them are traumatized -- and also to support those who need help. I mean, we sort of have to assemble a protection of life fund within our organizations with the purpose really to help provide some urgent relief to women and to provide legal defense by hiring lawyers to defend them for their rights. In some extraordinary cases a fine will save a life so women need to help pay the temporary relief to pay a fine in order to get the life saved. We can build that.
We also need to, as Americans, we need to urge our elected government officials to stop sending this funding to the UN, the (United Nations Population Fund), so that more lives can be rescued. If Chinese family planning officials are not receiving this international aid so it will not give them enough power to continue, enough financial power to continue. So that's something we can do from here.
Whitney Jones is a writer with Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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