Every year on June 1, China celebrates its beautiful children. Children's Day in China brings smiles to the faces of millions of kids who survived the one-child policy and its consequences. It's a celebration of life, especially meaningful because so many children in China were never allowed to live. Children eat sweets and participate in fun activities, while the others (China reports 400 million others) are forgotten.
In 1995, Hillary Rodham Clinton famously proclaimed that "Women's Rights are Human Rights." In the same way, I believe that children's rights are human rights, too. But for many children in China, wrongs have stripped away life, security, education, families and comfort. These statistics are alarming, but true:
- Every year in China, 1 million children are abandoned.
- This Children's Day, 2,739 babies will be abandoned.
- The one-child policy has led to a burgeoning black market in stolen children - at least 70,000 a year.
- This Children's Day, 191 children will be stolen from their families.
- With only one child allowed and a preference for sons, many families selectively abort or kill baby girls. In 2005, more than 1.1 million excess births of boys occurred.
- This Children's Day, 3,013 girls will be aborted or killed on because they were girls.
Honoring children on Children's Day demands more than goodies and puppet shows or parades in the big cities. Since founding All Girls Allowed in June 2010, I've begun to refer to the one-child policy as the "Every Other Child Must Die" policy - the most unnecessary, most lethal, most child-injurious policy that has ever existed in the history of the world.
The policy is particularly lethal for girls. Families feel the need to have sons to survive and maintain the family line. Since the implementation of the policy in 1979, families have dishonored or disposed of their daughters to make way for boys - and the chaos is set to continue.
Last April, President Hu Jintao committed to keeping the population low. He vowed to "stick to and improve [China's] current family-planning policy and maintain a low birth rate." We hope that this improvement will involve freedom for Chinese mothers to keep their own daughters.
As a mother of three, I honor my children by keeping them safe and loving them, but families in China are not allowed to do this simple thing. Children's Day was established in 1931 but was moved to June 1 by the central government in 1949. Today it just seems like hypocrisy.
How can China honor its children by standing for children's rights in 2011? The first step is abandonment of the one-child policy. Though set to remain in place for 30 years, the policy turns 31 this September. While more work remains, freedom for families to keep their children would set the country on a trajectory of healing.
All Girls Allowed is an organization devoted to restoring life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China. We work in villages with the highest levels of "gynocide" (systemic killing of baby girls). We provide education for orphans and rescue children sold into slavery. But we cannot honor these children alone. This Children's Day, may China reconsider its policy of human wrongs, because children's rights are human rights, too.
Chai Ling is the founder of All Girls Allowed and was a leader in the 1989 Tiananmen Square Movement.
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