China Will Keep One-Child Policy, and Forced Abortions, in Effect Until March 2016

International   |   Cora Sherlock   |   Nov 3, 2015   |   9:35AM   |   Beijing, China

I’ll say one thing for the Chinese; they know how to spin.  Within just a few hours of the announcement that the People’s Republic had “abolished” the One Child Policy, the news was spreading like wildfire.  Every major website was broadcasting the fact that couples in China would now be freed of the restrictions which had been in place since the Policy was first imposed back in 1979 when the slogan “late, long and few” was promoted by the Communist Party in an attempt to control China’s growing population.

Of course, we know what happened in the intervening years.  In a 2010 article, the Economist magazine estimated that some 100 million girls were missing due to incidences of abortion, infanticide and gender-based neglect.  China was among the worst offenders.  The Economist article quoted from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) which estimated that within just 10 years, one in five young men would be unable to find a bride because of the extreme gender imbalance caused by the Policy.

China’s strict enforcement has led to this phenomenon known as “bare branches”, that is, an enormous swathe of young men who have no hope of participating in marriage and the kind of social opportunities one would expect.  And this has a trickle down effect too – increased levels of violence and sex trafficking are common in countries affected by gender imbalance at such an extreme level.

So on the face of it then, we should surely all be rejoicing at the news that the One Child Policy has been ended.  And we would be – if it were true.  Unfortunately though, what we’ve been witnessing over the last few days is yet another attempt by the Chinese Government to avoid addressing one of the most serious human rights abuses of our times.



Dressed in the language of concern for the environment and considerations of population control, the Policy managed to avoid the eye of the international community for many years.  Thanks however to the courage of activists like Chinese freedom fighter Chen Guangcheng and Reggie Littlejohn, who founded the group Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, the treacherous side of the Policy gradually emerged.  And it made for fairly horrific reading.

Stories of forced abortions, heavily pregnant women being taken from their homes while their husbands were at work, then dragged through the streets by Family Planning officials to clinics where they were often sterilised during the abortion procedure.

The so-called “crime” of these women and their partners?  They didn’t have a “birth permit” which is required by the Chinese Government before a baby can be born.  This ludicrous situation – one where an effort is made to control life and death itself – has been the cause of so much misery for an entire generation of men and women in Ireland.  And it is this misery that calls on us – no, demands of us – that we are not taken in by China’s latest attempt to fool the world into thinking that the One Child Policy is no more.

The announcement of change amounted to very little on the face of it, and even less when the surface was scratched.  Xinhua, China’s official News Agency was quick to announce that all couples would now be allowed to have two children (previous “amendments” to the Policy in 1984 allowed some couples to have two children in certain circumstances).  Dig a little deeper though, and the reality starts to emerge.

The amendments to the Policy have nothing to do with a desire to improve China’s disastrous human rights record in this area, and more to do with a numbers game.  More specifically, an attempt to ensure that China’s aging population or “grey economy” won’t detract from their movements into world markets.  Almost as soon as the news had been released, the Chinese Government made a second announcement – the One Child Policy will remain in force until March 2016, with the result that “all localities and departments must seriously implement the population and family planning laws and regulations currently in effect.”

Those are innocuous words, but the stories on the website of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers speak of the day-to-day horror inflicted by the Policy, something which is not altered in any way by this amendment.  Whether the Chinese Government decrees that couples are allowed to have one or two children, the way in which it enforces that law is beyond inhuman and the very fact that it considers it appropriate to try is a human rights transgression of the highest order.

The international community must not accept any amendment of the One Child Policy if to do so would allow the Chinese Government any leeway in this critical area.  The recent press release from Reggie Littlejohn was very clear on this point: “The one-child policy does not need to be modified.  It needs to be abolished.”