The former British colony of Hong Kong used to be a sea of freedom nestled into Communist China, which treats its citizens to extensive human rights abuses via the one-child policy limiting couples to having one baby.
In the past, women looking to evade the policy, with its provisions for forced abortions and sterilizations, went to Hong Kong in order to give birth to a child who would have normally been born illegally — subjecting families to fines, imprisonment or worse.
Now, The Star newspaper reports Hong Kong is beginning to crack down on the practice. With the outcry over the treatment of forced abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng, the news only adds more pressure on China to reform its population control scheme and lighten its heavy-handed policy of targeting dissidents and offenders.
Over the last decade the number of mainland babies born in Hong Kong has risen from 620 in 2001 to more than 40,000 in 2010 — almost half the total 88,000 births in the territory. Some experts estimate that upwards of 60 per cent of these are second children.
The rising numbers are no doubt due in part to the rising incomes of Chinese couples. According to one agent who helps arrange such trips, it can cost upwards of RMB 188,000 (about $30,000 CDN) for the best Hong Kong birth packages.
But over the last few years, the mood has hardened against mainland mothers. In April, the territory refused entry to a heavily pregnant mainland woman wanting to give birth there. The woman, from Beijing and seven months pregnant, was ordered off a train and told to return to her home province to give birth.
Earlier this year, Leung Chun-ying, the territory’s new chief executive, announced that starting in 2013 “zero” mothers from the mainland will be permitted to give birth in public Hong Kong hospitals unless they have a Hong Kong husband. Private hospitals have also agreed to drastically cut their quotas.
According to the Chinese press, several women from the mainland who had a second child in Hong Kong have been fined upon their return home, just as if they had given birth on the mainland. Fines are typically between two and nine times the couple’s total income of the previous year, or the local average income of the area, and couples can still lose their jobs, especially if they work for state-owned companies or in the public sector.
However, the newspaper reports families in China are still making plans to give birth in Hong Kong, despite the crackdown.
Zhao and her husband live in Shenzhen, the Chinese border city with Hong Kong. They have already made reservations to give birth in the former British colony. “I’ve been to Hong Kong and made reservations in a private hospital,” she said, optimistic that they will get in before it becomes even harder.
The devastating number of forced abortions in China underscores the reality many families face when pregnant again, and they are willing to grapple with fines and other punishments in order to save their child’s life.
Chen documented 7,000 such forced abortion cases, taking down the names and addresses of those women who were victimized, as well as the particulars of the officials who committed these crimes. That is why the Chinese Communist Party is so eager to silence Chen. Not only has he exposed their crimes against the Chinese people, he has at least the potential to generate massive protests against the brutal one-child policy.
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The documents Chen Guangcheng compiled place the focus squarely on why China subjected him to years of house arrest: brutal forced abortions.
Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, has released a compendium of Chen Guangcheng’s field notes about forced abortion and sterilization in China and the stories the blind attorney compiled are shocking, even for those familiar with the forced abortion abuses that take place as a result of China’s one-child policy.
“In the astonishment surrounding Chen Guangcheng’s extraordinary escape from house arrest, let us not forget why he was arrested,” Littlejohn told LifeNews. “In 2006, Chen exposed the Chinese government’s systematic, massive use of forced abortion and involuntary sterilization to enforce its “One Child Policy.’”
WRWF obtained a copy of Chen’s field notes and has released the first English translation of them.
“A member of Chen’s team, human rights attorney Teng Biao, drafted this 2005 investigative report into coercive family planning in Linyi City, Shandong Province,” Littlejohn explained. “The report contains extensive witness statements from cases Chen and his team were investigating before Chen was jailed.”