- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2001

HONG KONG — A Chinese county has been ordered to conduct 20,000 abortions and sterilizations before the end of the year after communist family planning chiefs found the official one-child policy was being routinely flouted.
The impoverished mountainous region of Huaiji has been given the Draconian target by provincial authorities in Guangdong formerly Canton. Although the one-child policy is no longer strictly enforced in many rural areas, officials in Guangdong issued the edict after census officials revealed that the average family in Huaiji has five or more children.
Many of the terminations will have to be conducted forcibly on peasant women to meet the quota. As part of the campaign, county officials are buying expensive ultrasound equipment that can be carried to remote villages by car. By detecting which women are pregnant, the machines will allow government doctors to order terminations on the spot.
At the Huaiji county hospital, where most of the operations will take place, it is not only women with unauthorized pregnancies who are facing traumatic surgery in insanitary conditions.
Officials said that, as part of the drive to meet the quota, doctors had been ordered to sterilize women as soon as they gave birth after officially approved pregnancies.
The drive to perform 20,000 abortions and sterilizations in six months in a county with a population of fewer than 1 million represents a heavy assault on the women of child-bearing age in its population. It is equivalent to the number of legal abortions that take place each year in Hong Kong, a city with a population of 7 million, where women face no family planning restrictions.
Demographers believe that China has one of the highest rates of abortion in the world, with estimates running at up to 80 terminations for each 1,000 live births. In Western Europe, the figure is 10 abortions per 1,000 births.
Saying they are strapped for funds, the local county leadership decided it could buy the ultrasound machines only if it withheld part of the salaries of its 15,000 employees.
"We are a very poor county," one government official said. "As our budget is very small, we don't have the money to buy new equipment."
Employees of the county government have spoken out against the leaders who have implemented the levy. Teachers, policemen and clerks who already find their $72 monthly stipend inadequate now have to support their families on half that amount.
"Party members and officials are people, too," one official said. "We don't know why we should pay for such a heartless drive."
Beijing's 20-year campaign to curb the country's population has had a marked effect.
The 2000 census produced a tally under 1.3 billion; the number would have been much higher without the one-child policy.
"For all the bad press, China has achieved the impossible," said Sven Burmester, the U.N. Population Fund representative in Beijing. "The country has solved its population problem."
That "bad press" has included reports of babies drowned in paddy fields by officials.
There was also the testimony of Gao Xiaoduan, a former family planning official, who told an American congressional committee in 1998 that heavily pregnant women were often forced to have abortions. More recently, a woman was reported to have died while trying to escape from officials who were attempting to sterilize her.
Many of the operations carried out by the hated Family Planning Association are forced on women who are sometimes as late as 81/2 months into pregnancy.
The most common method of inducing birth is to inject a saline solution into the womb.
Abortion in Guangdong is increasing sharply as a result of a combination of a new campaign to strengthen implementation of the one-child policy and a trend for young women in the cities to have multiple terminations from an early age as a form of birth control.
Hospitals use the operations to generate cash both from local women and visitors from neighboring Hong Kong who think it is easier to travel across the border for the procedure than to go through the formalities required under the laws of the former British colony.
The clinics catering to Hong Kong and Chinese city-dwellers are a far cry from the primitive facilities in Huaiji.
Dozens of young women sit restlessly on benches waiting for their names to be called.
Once inside the operating room, they are given a general anesthetic before undergoing the 10-minute procedure.
Within hours, they are back on the streets or boarding the train back home.
If they went to the Hong Kong Family Planning Association, they would have to face background checks and be forced to accept a cooling-off period.

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