UN Agency Still Praises China’s Coercive Population Control Programs

August 24, 2001 

Volume 4, Number 36

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) representative in China, Sven Burmester, recently told British reporters that, “For all the bad press, China has achieved the impossible. The country has solved its population problem.” Earlier this year new UNFPA executive director Thoraya Obaid “praised” the “notable achievements” of the Chinese policy. Obaid told the Chinese People’s Daily “that China, having adopted practical measures in accordance with her current situation, has scored remarkable achievements in population control.” Statements like these puzzle human rights activists who wonder why UNFPA would be complicit in what they see as ongoing population control abuses against Chinese women.

The British newspaper Telegraph reported on August 8 that one Chinese county has been “ordered to conduct 20,000 abortions and sterilizations before the end of the year after communist family planning chiefs found that the official one-child policy was being routinely flouted. Many of the terminations will have to be conducted forcibly on peasant women to meet the quota. As part of the campaign, county officials are buying expensive ultrasound equipment that can be carried to remote villages by car. By detecting which women are pregnant, the machines will allow Government doctors to order terminations on the spot.” The Telegraph reports that doctors have also been ordered to sterilize women as soon as they give birth.

UNFPA has been involved in the Chinese population-control program since 1978, when it signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Chinese government. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that, through 1999, UNFPA had contributed $177 million to China and had participated in 123 projects within the country. According to a Ministry press release, “The relations between China and UNFPA have developed step by step.”

The Telegraph article is the latest example of two decades of reports of gross violations of human rights as China has implemented its one-child-per-family policy. In 1998, the former head of the Fujian province’s “planned birth office” testified before a US Congressional committee about abortions routinely forced upon women in their ninth month of pregnancy, mandatory sterilizations of both men and women, and the destruction of the houses of families that had had more than one child. In 1999, the US State Department reported that, in at least one province, “the rules state that an ‘unplanned pregnancy must be aborted immediately.’“ Infanticide, especially of female babies, is also considered widespread.

These latest revelations come as a member of the British House of Lords seeks to take British funds away from UNFPA, which is funded almost exclusively through donations from rich western nations. US contributions have become a political bouncing ball. Two years ago the US Congress, over objections from the Clinton Administration, defunded its annual $25 million grant to UNFPA. Under the first budget proposal from the new US president, UNFPA’s $25 million has reappeared, angering social conservatives who seek to have it removed. Recent quotes from UNFPA sources supply ammunition for UNFPA opponents.

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