China: Forced-Abortion Victim Promised $11,200, but Family Fears for Life

In June, Feng Jianmei was bundled into a van with a pillowcase over her head, then driven to a hospital by family-planning officials and held down while medical staff injected poison into her pregnant belly

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HOW HWEE YOUNG / EPA

Chinese parents walk with their child in Beijing. China's one-child policy has come under scrutiny after a woman who was seven months pregnant was forced to have an abortion

Just how much is a dead baby worth? This week, a settlement from China’s Shaanxi province put that figure at $11,200. In early June, Feng Jianmei was bundled into a van with a pillowcase over her head, then driven to a hospital by family-planning officials and held down while medical staff injected poison into her pregnant belly. The forced abortion of her seven-month fetus occurred because Feng and her husband Deng Jiyuan did not have enough money to pay a $6,350 fine for contravening China’s so-called one-child policy. Such late-term forced abortions are illegal by national Chinese law, but such violent incidents are not unusual. Feng’s case, though, was different in one key respect: a photograph was posted online of the 23-year-old lying in the hospital bed with her lifeless baby girl beside her. A horrified Chinese public rallied to her cause.

At first, Feng’s case seemed like it might follow a familiar trajectory in a country with faulty protection for individual rights. After Deng was contacted by media, he and his family were harassed by local officials. Feng was essentially kept hostage in the hospital. Deng was later beaten up and evaded security forces to make his way to Beijing, where he publicized his wife’s case.

(MORE: Why Forced Abortions Persist in China)

But then the Internet outrage over Feng’s case appeared to galvanize an official response, even as other similar incidents of coercive abortion failed to trigger such a rapid reaction. National family-planning officials promised to look into Feng’s mistreatment. Two local family-planning bureaucrats were dismissed from their jobs in late June, and the city of Ankang released a statement professing “deep apologies” for the forced abortion. Then came this week’s promise of compensation from the out-of-court settlement.

China’s one-child policy is, in fact, not a monolithic family-planning system. Ethnic minorities, for instance, are allowed to have more than a single child. So are couples who are only children themselves. Rural parents can procreate more if their first child is a girl or disabled. In some big cities, like Beijing, families are actually being encouraged to have more than one offspring because municipal officials are worried that there are too few children around.

But in small towns and county seats across China, the one-child policy is often still applied with deadly effect. That’s because the promotion of local officials is tied to their success in keeping extra births to a minimum. (Local governments also make good money from collecting hefty fines from those who have more than one child.)

The cruel tradition of forced abortions has been periodically exposed over the years. One of the most vocal critics of the practice is Chen Guangcheng, a legal activist from eastern Shandong province who earlier this year made a dramatic dash to the U.S. embassy in Beijing, setting off a diplomatic crisis. (He is now studying in New York City with his family.) In 2005, Chen lobbied on behalf of women from China’s eastern Shandong province who were the victims of either forced abortions or sterilizations. For his advocacy, he was jailed, beaten and placed under house arrest before his move to America.

(MORE: A Chinese Activist Lost in the System)

This month, three high-level Chinese researchers published an essay in a state-run newspaper calling for the one-child policy to be revised. “The longer we take to adjust the policy, the more vulnerable we become,” the authors wrote, noting that a population bulge of retirees will strain the country’s social services and family bonds. The academics also worried about a future labor shortage in China.

Any future policy changes, however, won’t bring back Feng’s child. Nor can $11,200. “In terms of compensation, the word satisfaction doesn’t even enter the equation,” her husband Deng tells TIME. “But this is the result, so we just have to accept it.” Village and township officials originally told Deng that the money would be delivered to his family on July 13. But on Friday, officials called to say they would bring the funds the next day. Deng isn’t convinced the money will come at all — and he feels his powerlessness keenly. “I’m just an ordinary villager,” he says.

Far from feeling any sense of closure, Deng wonders why no criminal charges have been filed against the officials who signed off on the forced abortion. More immediately, he professes deep worry over his family’s future safety: “There are rumors on the street that after this thing calms down, when people are not paying attention to us anymore, they will kill my family.”

— With reporting by Chengcheng Jiang / Beijing

MORE: Poets, Peaceniks and Protesters: Meet China’s Leading Dissidents

13 comments
Tonto
Tonto

Maybe Dr. Kermit Moss could be sent to China.  He would fit right in.

JohnMendoza
JohnMendoza like.author.displayName 1 Like


Hobby Lobby opposes providing some contraceptives to it's employees because it conflicts with their religious beliefs by providing "abortion-inducing drugs." This coming from a company who purchases a majority of their merchandise from China, who among other things support, encourage and perform forced abortions. In China "family planning officials" kidnap and restrain pregnant women who already have a child. They inject the fetus with poison, the woman gives birth to a still born child who is then placed head down in a bucket of water to ensure it is dead. Something to think about next time you buy something Made in China. I guess Hobby Lobby doesn't have a problem with this.

KR
KR

Whichever way you look at it - it is murder. It is a helpless, innocent life that was extinguished in a most brutal manner. Not to speak of the mother of the child who was murdered while still in her, will she ever recover? Not to speak of the father of the baby who had to watch her die. In or out of the womb, a child is a human being, $6K would have made a difference, $6K would have let her live. Ethics? P-h-lease! Humanity? Where?! 

Mike
Mike

End of the day, 'laws' here (yes, I live in China) exist solely for the Beijing gangsters to persecute their enemies.  This is the absolutely indisputable fact.   Remember, Beijing spends more on INternal security than the military - it truly shows who they are really afraid of - the Chinese people.

Lorenz Mercado
Lorenz Mercado

This world is already overpopulated,besides i dont like kids,so i will make my part no kids for me.

Be Good Be Kind
Be Good Be Kind

The US government valued life of Afghanis just $50,000.  Considerthing the GDP per capital of US is 20 times greater than China.  That breaks down to about $2500 in Chinese equivalent.  I say, Hannah Beech, anti-Chinese author, should be ashamed of herself for contributing to the devisiveness in the world.  I am not surprised though since she is half-japanese and half-white, which probably been fed a daily dose of anti-chinese racism since her birth.

chauvin tsau
chauvin tsau

As a Chinese guy, 26 years, graduated  from College past three years, sincerely wish our people's life become much better.

Amitavo Mitra
Amitavo Mitra

at one level, the parents should have known that they wont be able to pay the fine, and should have seeked out an abortion earlier than 7 months. at 7 months, its likely equally dangerous for the mother. maybe contraception (if used) failed. the whole system of limiting to 1 child is flawed at the ethical level, but then again, is it really ethical on the parents part to have more children than what they can afford to have and provide the best opportunities for ?

human rights violations is seemingly endemic in developing and underdeveloped countries, but no meaningful pressure has been brought by developed countries onto china. every now and then we hear US talk to china about its human rights..but at the end of the day, economics trumps everything. US nor europe is willing to impose sanctions on china..but oh wait! god forbid if this was some poor country in africa/asia...US and europe would become the bastion of morals and ethics.

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