|Chinese region 'must conduct 20,000 abortions'
By Damien Mcelroy in Hong Kong (Filed: 05/08/2001)
A CHINESE county has been ordered to conduct 20,000 abortions
sterilisations before the end of the year after communist
planning chiefs found that the official one-child policy
The impoverished mountainous region of Huaiji has been
set the draconian
target by provincial authorities in Guangdong (formerly
Although the one-child policy is no longer strictly enforced
rural areas, officials in Guangdong issued the edict
officials revealed that the average family in Huaiji
has five or more
Many of the terminations will have to be conducted forcibly
women to meet the quota. As part of the campaign, county
buying expensive ultrasound equipment that can be carried
villages by car.
By detecting which women are pregnant, the machines will
Government doctors to order terminations on the spot.
At the Huaiji county hospital, where most of the operations
place, it is not only women with unauthorised pregnancies
who are facing
traumatic surgery in insanitary conditions.
Officials said that, as part of the drive to meet the
quota, doctors had
been ordered to sterilise women as soon as they gave
officially approved pregnancies.
The drive to perform 20,000 abortions and sterilisations
in six months
in a county with a population of fewer than one million
heavy assault on the women of child-bearing age in its
It is equivalent to the number of legal abortions that
take place each
year in Hong Kong, a city with a population of seven
women face no family planning restrictions.
Demographers believe that China has one of the highest
rates of abortion
in the world, with estimates running at up to 80 terminations
1,000 live births. In Western Europe, the figure is just
per 1,000 births.
Claiming to be strapped for funds, the local county leadership
that it could buy the ultrasound machines only if it
withheld part of
the salaries of its 15,000 employees. One government
official said: "We
are a very poor county. As our budget is very small,
we don't have the
money to buy new equipment."
Employees of the county government have spoken out against
who have implemented the bizarre levy. Teachers, policemen
who already find their 600 yuan (£50) monthly stipend
have to support their families on half that amount.
One official said: "Party members and officials are people,
don't know why we should pay for such a heartless drive."
Beijing's 20-year campaign to curb the country's population
has had a
marked effect. The 2000 census produced a tally under
1.3 billion" the
number would have been much higher without the one-child
Sven Burmester, the United Nations Population Fund representative
Beijing, said: "For all the bad press, China has achieved
impossible. The country has solved its population problem."
That "bad press" has included reports of babies drowned
in paddy fields
by officials. There was also the testimony of Gao Xiaoduan,
family planning official, who told an American congressional
in 1998 that heavily pregnant women were often forced
to have abortions.
Most recently, a woman was reported to have died while
trying to escape
from officials who were attempting to sterilise her.
Many of the operations carried out by the hated Family
Association are forced on women, sometimes as late as
eight and a half
months into pregnancy. The most common method of inducing
birth is to
inject a saline solution into the womb.
Abortion in Guangdong is increasing sharply as a result
of a combination
of a new campaign to strengthen implementation of the
and a trend for young women in the cities to have multiple
from an early age as a form of birth control.
Hospitals use the operations to generate cash both from
local women and
visitors from neighbouring Hong Kong who think it is
easier to travel
across the border and pay £40 for the procedure
than to go through the
formalities required under the laws of the former British
The clinics catering for Hong Kong and Chinese city-dwellers
are a far
cry from the primitive facilities in Huaiji. Dozens of
young women sit
restlessly on benches waiting for their names to be called.
the theatre they are given a general anaesthetic before
Within hours, they are back on the streets or boarding
the train back to
Hong Kong. If they went to the Hong Kong Family Planning
they would have to face background checks and be forced
to accept a
There are no such time-consuming demands in southern China,
abortion is not considered an ethical issue. In Hong
Kong, they would
also have been offered counselling, something that the
doctors in China
insist that there is no demand for.