Washington Post: Horrors of one-child policy leave deep scars in Chinese society

The Washington Post
By Simon Denyer October 30

Beijing  — His wife was seven months pregnant with their second child when the group of people barged into his home and took her away. He followed them to the local hospital, where — against medical advice and despite his pleadings — they jammed a needle into her belly.

“They grabbed my wife’s body like they were grabbing a pig, four or five people holding her hands and legs and head, and injected a shot into her belly,” the man said, asking not to be named for fear of retribution. “Neither my wife nor I signed any consent form.”

Ten hours later, she gave birth to a boy, wriggling and faintly crying. But the doctors in southern Hunan province would not even let her hold the dying infant, the husband said. They put the baby in a plastic bag and instructed him to pay a cleaner a small sum to bury it on a nearby hill.

The incident happened not during the horrors of some Mao ­Zedong-inspired mania in the 1950s or 1960s but in 2011, in the Internet age and when China was walking proudly on the global stage as a major power.

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On Thursday, China’s Communist Party announced it was abandoning its unpopular “one-child” policy after 35 years. But the scars still run deep.

In 2012, 6.7 million women in China were forced to have abortions under the one-child policy, according to official statistics. Rates in previous decades often topped 10 million a year. As a result, experts say, suicide rates among women in China are significantly higher than among men, in contrast to global norms.

Unimaginable numbers of girls are secretly aborted or killed in infancy every year by parents seeking boys, skewing the sex ratio dramatically.

In the past four decades, hundreds of millions of men and women have been forcibly sterilized or had intrauterine devices inserted, per Chinese family-planning policies.

The vast majority of people are still scared to speak out, but many, including some of the cadres involved in enforcing the policy, say they feel bitter to this day.

A 56-year-old man from a small town in southern China said he had worked in the mid-1990s as a member of a family-planning team.

The Chinese Communist Party announced on that it will allow couples to have two
children instead of limiting them to just one. The decision comes as many worry about 
China’s aging population and shrinking workforce. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

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