TV & Radio
China sacks officials over forced abortions
By Vivi Lin and Benjamin Kang Lim
Tue Sep 20, 1:37 AM ET - 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 areas.
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 exaggeration.
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 detention.
"Only lower-level officials will be punished. The Linyi mayor and town chiefs won't be punished," the source said by telephone.
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 years.
China admits forced abortions, sterilisations in eastern province
Mon Sep 19, 2:20 PM ET - AFP
China's family planning agency admitted that officials in the eastern province of Shandong had carried out forced abortions and sterlisations, state media reported.
National Population and Family Planning Commission spokesman Yu Xuejun said the commission and Shandong family planning agency had sent two joint teams to investigate reports of forced abortions and sterilisations in Linyi city since early this year, Xinhua news agency reported.
"Initial investigation indicates illegal family planning practices that violate people's legal rights and interests do exist," he said.
"Those who are responsible have been dismissed from duty. Some are under investigation, some in detention. Further measures will be taken by government departments concerned according to legal competence and procedure."
Yu said the commission would train staff on the "rule of law" and require them to "correct any infringements on citizens' rights".
Time magazine last week reported that at least 7,000 people in Shandong were forcibly sterilised earlier this year by officials under pressure to limit the growth of the country's massive population.
Quoting lawyers who spoke to local family-planning officials, the magazine said that between March and July, 7,000 people underwent forced abortions and sterilisations in Shandong's Yinan county north of Linyi.
It further reported that the lawyers alleged that several villagers were beaten to death while under detention for trying to help family members avoid sterilisation.
In March, the report said, distraught peasants had complained to a local legal activist, Chen Guangcheng, of the forced sterilisations and the detention of family members.
Many people in his village, he told Time, had been imprisoned for defying the sterilisation order.
Chen, the report said, was placed under house arrest by mid-August after he filed a class action against Linyi officials accusing them of contravening national family-planning law.
China's population reached 1.3 billion earlier this year and the demographic explosion is putting pressure on already insufficient natural resources and jobs.
It is expected to increase by about 10 million people annually to reach a peak of 1.46 billion in the mid-2030s, state media quoted population experts as saying last year.
Beijing introduced its controversial one-child policy more than 25 years ago and state officials have credited the programme with delaying by four years the point at which the country's population hit the 1.3 billion mark.
The policy makes it illegal for urban couples to have more than one child but allows rural couples to have a second child if their first is a daughter.
China on Saturday said it would maintain its one-child policy.