Following up on a previous post (“Forced abortion: A tipping point in China?”): Authorities in China have taken steps designed to defuse public outrage after a widely publicized case of forced abortion. The fact of forced abortion (and forced sterilization) is nothing new in China, where a “one-child policy” has been enforced for decades, but what was different in this case was the rapid circulation via the Internet and Twitter of this particular story, accompanied by a photograph of the devastated woman (who had been beaten in advance of the “procedure”) with the bloodied corpse of her nearly full-term child beside her in the hospital. The woman and her husband already had one child, and were unable to come up with a “fine” of 40,000 yuan (roughtly $6,300) which would have “allowed” them to give birth to a second.
The story has touched a deep nerve in China, where there has reportedly been growing frustration with the idea that the government is able to dictate how many children people can have. While the Chinese government is obviously quite capable of cracking down on dissent and criticism, it is telling that they are not taking that tack in this case. Perhaps there is an understanding that such a crackdown would be sure to backfire; perhaps in this case too many people are too unhappy with the status-quo to tolerate being told to be quiet.
Three officials considered responsible for the forced abortion in this case have been “suspended,” and a deputy mayor of the city in question (Ankang) visited the couple to apologize. Yet, for now, this amounts to little more than lip-service, as observers in China are noting, with the one-child policy still in effect and the certainty that additional cases like the recent one will occur again. Outrageously violent and abusive forced abortions (though you would think there could hardly be any other kind) are reportedly most common in rural areas of China. It remains to be seen how the public will react to future instances and a continuing policy which has already caused a serious gender imbalance in China (because of the disproportionate aborting of female babies) and a population that is aging in an unsustainable fashion. Forced abortion being an evil so far beyond the ordinary, the ultimate consequences for a society that has practiced it for so long cannot be expected to be minor.