Chinese Officials Suspended Amid Probe Into Forced Abortion
A western Chinese city suspended three officials as part of an investigation into claims they forced a woman to abort her seven-month-old fetus, as leaders sought to address public anger over the case.
The officials in Ankang “breached rules” in the case of Feng Jianmei, 23, the Ankang government said in a statement on its website yesterday. The Global Times newspaper said Feng was forced to abort the baby because she couldn’t pay a 40,000 yuan ($6,300) fine for violating China’s one-child policy.
The investigation was prompted by outrage online over photos that showed the woman lying next to her aborted fetus and methods used by local officials to control population growth in China. Yesterday, Vice Mayor Du Shouping visited Feng and her family at a hospital to ask for forgiveness, according to a separate statement posted on Ankang’s website today.
The government’s handling of the case has bee more lenient than actions against blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who was targeted by another local government for taking up the grievances of women claiming they were forced into abortions. Chen was jailed for four years and held under house arrest for almost two years before China allowed him to leave for the U.S. last month.
The forced abortion in Ankang “would have been seen as normal in the past and shows how far society has changed,” Wang Feng, the Beijing-based director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy, said by phone. “The Internet exposure of the case, including the posts and the photos, played a great role in the government’s fast response.”
In Ankang, two local family planning officials and one with the local government were suspended, according to the statement.
Feng agreed to have the abortion because her pregnancy violated China’s one-child policy, according to a statement published June 11 on the website of a county within Ankang. The Global Times report said that local officials detained Feng, blindfolded her then forced her to sign an agreement to have the abortion, quoting Feng’s husband, Deng Jiyuan.
The reports in state media such as the Global Times comes amid a broader push by some Chinese provinces to ease restrictions under the one-child policy, imposed in 1979 to control growth in a population that has reached more than 1.3 billion people.
China’s leaders confront United Nations projections that show the pool of 15 to 24-year-olds will fall by almost 62 million people through 2025. In that time, those over the age of 65 will surge 78 percent to 195 million, the UN says.
The Chinese government now allows exceptions to its one- child policy, such as permitting rural families to have a second child if the first is a girl. In 2010, the state-run China Daily newspaper ran an article quoting Zhai Zhenwu, director of the school of population and sociological studies at Renmin University, as saying the task of controlling population growth is “nearly complete.”
The government’s restrictions were more severe for Chen, who was sentenced to four years in prison in 2006 for “organizing a mob to disturb traffic,” the Xinhua News Agency reported at the time. Chen was released in 2010 and held under extrajudicial house arrest, with local authorities blocking his movements and denying him visitors until he fled in April and spent a week at the U.S. Embassy.
“The suspended officials aren’t responsible for the occurrence of such cases,” said Wang of the Brookings-Tsingua Center. “We have to think about the root cause of the tragedy. It’s the rules for birth quotas and the fines.”
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