September 20, 2005

China sacks officials over forced abortions

By Vivi Lin and Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING (Reuters) - China, which enforces a one-child
policy in cities, has sacked and detained officials in coastal
Shandong province for forcing pregnant women to undergo
abortions or sterilizing couples with more than two children.

The dismissals and detentions appeared to be in line with a
push by Hu Jintao, the Communist Party chief and state
president, to instill official accountability since he assumed
power in 2002.

Yu Xuejun, spokesman for the National Population and Family
Planning Commission, said the authorities had launched an
investigation after receiving successive complaints of forced
abortions and sterilizations by family planning officials in
the city of Linyi this year.

"According to the results of a preliminary investigation,
some persons concerned in a few counties and townships of Linyi
did commit practices that violated the law ... while conducting
family planning work," Yu said on the commission's Web site.

"Currently, the responsible persons have been removed from
their posts. Some of them are being investigated for
liabilities and some have been detained," Yu said without
giving a figure for officials sacked and detained.

Yu urged commission staff to learn a lesson from the case
and "correct any infringements on citizens' rights."

China's population exploded after Mao Zedong exhorted the
people to multiply in the 1950s to make the country strong.

But China -- now the world's most populous nation with 1.3
billion people -- put the brakes on growth more than two
decades ago, imposing the tough one-child policy in urban

A hefty fine is slapped on urban residents with more than
one child. Rural people and members of ethnic minority groups
are allowed a maximum of two children.


International human rights groups have accused overzealous
Chinese family planners of forcing women to abort, in some
cases in the ninth month of pregnancy, or to undergo
hysterectomies, but Beijing regularly denies the claims or
keeps silent.

Tuesday's rare admission of official wrongdoing came after
a blind activist, Chen Guangcheng, accused Linyi officials of
forcing couples with two children to be sterilized and forcing
women pregnant with a third child to undergo abortions.

"It falls far short of the number of officials who should
be punished," Chen, who has since been put under house arrest
in Shandong, told Reuters on Tuesday.

A source close to Chen said about 120,000 Linyi residents
had been forced to undergo abortions or sterilization, but a
Shandong family planning official said the figure was an

Linyi police took into custody and beat up family members
and neighbors of couples who had fled to avoid the forced
procedures, said the source, who sought anonymity. Some died in

"Only lower-level officials will be punished. The Linyi
mayor and town chiefs won't be punished," the source said by

Chen was stopped from coming to Beijing this month and held
by police at an inn for about 30 hours. He staged intermittent
hunger strikes and was joined by more than 10 local residents,
two of whom are still in detention.

President Hu has championed the poor as part of a campaign
to ease tensions between corrupt officials and ordinary people,
avert unrest and perpetuate the Communist Party's decades-old
monopoly on power.

Chinese have become increasingly aware of their legal
rights, including those at the grassroots level, in recent