Tue 29th Jul 2014 | Last updated: Tue 29th Jul 2014 at 16:36pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Comment & Blogs

A new generation of young men and women in China are challenging their country’s one-child policy

The internet is making it impossible for Chinese authorities to keep their shameful policy away from international scrutiny

By on Monday, 24 September 2012

Newborn babies at a hospital in Shandong province, eastern China (Photo: PA)

Newborn babies at a hospital in Shandong province, eastern China (Photo: PA)

Driving into town on Saturday morning I switched on BBC Radio 4 to listen to “From Our Own Correspondent” and was startled to hear Damian Grammaticas, the BBC’s Beijing correspondent, deliver a wholly pro-life broadcast about the evils of China’s “one-child” policy. What made it more compelling was that Grammaticas was not setting out as a pro-life advocate; he was simply doing what a good foreign correspondent should do: reporting the facts as he saw them, without whitewash or spin.

What he related wasn’t news to anyone in pro-life circles – especially if they ever read the bulletins put out in the past by Human Life International and now by LifeSiteNews. Steven Mosher, president of the Virginia-based Population Research Institute, wrote eloquently about the barbarity of China’s anti-life laws back in the 1980s; indeed, from having a “woman’s right to choose” attitude as a research student at Stanford University, he became a convert to the pro-life cause the moment he was invited to watch a forced abortion in rural China.

But it still felt strange – and strangely hopeful – that an employee of the BBC should write such a straightforwardly damning report. Grammaticas included a most harrowing interview with a weeping Chinese woman whose baby had been forcibly aborted at six months by family planning officials. He spoke of a father photographing his dead baby son on his mobile, lying beside his mother at a clinic, and then sending it round the internet to shock the world with his private grief and public outrage. As Grammaticas pointed out, the internet has made it impossible for the Chinese authorities to keep their shameful and secretive policy away from international scrutiny any longer. A new generation of Chinese young men and women have begun to challenge this draconian edict, openly questioning what was never publicly spoken of before. China’s birth rate is falling, there is a growing disparity between the numbers of baby girls being born compared with baby boys and an increasingly elderly population. Although Grammaticas didn’t offer any moral judgments, his deliberate selection of material and interviewees spoke for itself.

Having listened to this report with the very poignant images it conjured up, I then happened to read an article by Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS (the British Pregnancy Advisory Service) on Spiked, the online magazine. It was the record of a speech she had made at a debate at Conway Hall concerning two conflicting freedoms: the freedom to make pro-life protests and the “freedom to provide abortion services”. Furedi spoke of “clients” and “providers”; she stated her commitment to “personal autonomy [as] a core value”; although she valued freedom of speech it did not include “a freedom to say anything to my person, at any time and in any place”; she saw pavement counsellors in the same light as hecklers at a public meeting who had to be ejected so that public order would be maintained. Tolerance is fine – “until [you are] confronted with the intolerable”. Tolerance, she believed, “can coexist with judgment. And I judge that verbal or physical protests at clinics are just plain wrong.” She concluded by stating that “protest may represent an intolerable assault on a person’s autonomy” and that bpas, like pro-life advocates, also had a “mission”: “to stop [counsellors] stopping women from exercising their reproductive choice”.

I won’t comment on Furedi’s views except to say they sounded slightly surreal when I thought of Grammaticas’s report. Readers of this blog will point out that there is a huge difference between someone who is forced against her will to abort her baby and a woman who chooses to do so. But I couldn’t help thinking, as I recalled the sobbing mother interviewed by Grammaticas, and the anguish of the other bereaved parents he spoke to, that this difference is really very small: in each case the baby still experiences a violent death – and who knows what inner violence is done to the spirit of the mother as a result of her “exercising her reproductive choice”?

  • TreenonPoet

    So what is your solution to the problem of overpopulation?

  • Rose23

    Try watching this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZVOU5bfHrM
    And as Mahatma Ghandi said, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”. The real problem is that western countries own a huge proportion of the worlds wealth. Inequality is the issue, not overpopulation.

  • Sophie_lou_14_

    You obviously know nothing about how this policy affects families and children in China so until you have a valid and not a very ignorant opinion, don’t comment.

  • Faith

    The solution is in God,s hands .He is our Creator and He gives all our means.

  • TreenonPoet

     That video is produced by the misleadingly named Population Research Institute. Their Wikipedia entry gives pointers to their motive, and it is not a the pursuit of maths or science. The video makes selective use of facts to try to lead the viewer to a wrong conclusion. Ask yourself why they would do that.

  • TreenonPoet

     I am well aware of some of the problems that have resulted from this policy. In my opinion, they are not sufficient to justify the complete abandonment of the policy (rather than a modification of it). Suggest an alternative policy that would render the existing policy unnecessary.

  • TreenonPoet

    That is the very complacency that could lead to a catastrophe. Do you think that it is God’s will that there are already a billion undernourished humans on this planet?

  • TreenonPoet

     That video is produced by the misleadingly named Population Research Institute. Their Wikipedia entry gives pointers to their motive, and it is not a the pursuit of maths or science. The video makes selective use of facts to try to lead the viewer to a wrong conclusion. Ask yourself why they would do that.

  • TreenonPoet

     I am well aware of some of the problems that have resulted from this policy. In my opinion, they are not sufficient to justify the complete abandonment of the policy (rather than a modification of it). Suggest an alternative policy that would render the existing policy unnecessary.

  • TreenonPoet

     That is the very complacency that could lead to a catastrophe. Do you think that it is God’s will that there are already a billion undernourished humans on this planet?

  • rjt1

    I would suggest that parents can judge for themselves how many children they can support.

  • rjt1

    I saw the report by Damian Grammaticas. I didn’t find it ‘pro-life’. There didn’t appear to be any underlying challenge to the idea that governments should tell families how many children they can have.

  • TreenonPoet

     That judgement is naturally likely to be both optimistic and influenced by emotion. It is clear that parents have not judged correctly at the global level because we are consuming 50% faster than the replenishment rate. Parents do not always have sufficient information to be able to make the decision that is best for the planet, and when then do have information about global resources, environmental impact, etc. they might exhibit the same selfishness that we observe in other matters relating to the environment, such as when a person chooses a high performance car rather than a frugal one.

    That is not to say that governments, or even organisations such as the UN, will not get it wrong. Religion plays a part in helping them to get it wrong. Theoretically they are better placed to gather the facts and make unemotional collective decisions. The resultant legislation might be a blunt instrument, but in the absence of a viable alternative, honing is preferable to abandonment.

  • Agent Provocateur21

    Dear Treenon, you must be a very unhappy person. Your views show absolute disregard for basic human rights and I can only hope and pray, that one day you will know the Truth. I wonder why are you reading the Catholic Herald??

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    Recently Cardinal Pell of Australia poured doubt over India and China’s bids to become superpowers due to the abortion.  Well said Cardinal.

    http://www.indianexpress.com/news/abortion-will-hinder-rise-of-china-and-india-catholic-cardinal/1005330/

  • DontMakeMeComeDownThere

     “Parents do not always have sufficient information to be able to make the
    decision that is best for the planet, and when then do have information
    about global resources, environmental impact, etc. they might exhibit
    the same selfishness that we observe in other matters relating to the
    environment, such as when a person chooses a high performance car rather
    than a frugal one.”

    We’ve heard this before.

    Those who know the history of the 20th century know that tyranny comes from the Left. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler – all socialists who thought that people had to be forced to do the “right” thing for the good of others. With Treenon’s post above, you see the same exact thinking that leads to dictatorship. If we only had a more powerful government, that could force people to do good (or kill the obstinate), everything would be fine. 100′s of millions killed, and their lies now eclipsed by the nation that rejected despotism, which has built the most powerful, free and generous nation in history. and again the Left wants to take down freedom and put in a despotic govt to save people from themselves.

    When will we learn.

  • TreenonPoet

     The basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children asserted by the World Health Organisation contains the word ‘responsibly’. There is not an equivalent right for those who procreate irresponsibly. Children have a right to be fed, so what action should a state take to ensure that they are fed?

  • TreenonPoet

     I understand left wing politics as supporting social equality. You think Hitler was left wing? I don’t think you are one of those who knows the history of the 20th century.

    In what way do collective decisions by those who have access to the relevant data lead to dictatorship? Perhaps you are mistaking legislation for dictatorship. Legislation is necessary for society to function. The more rational and explanatory the legislation, the less oppressive it is because it is possible for rational people to see the reasoning behind it and bear the imposition more comfortably.

    When legislation is introduced to avert a disaster, there are those who will claim that the disaster would never have happened anyway because [supply made-up reason] and reject scientific predictions as evidence. It is a shame that it took London’s Great Smog to initiate the introduction of smokeless zones in the UK, but at least people then knew why some no longer had the freedom to burn smokey fuel. Who wants to wait for mass starvation before population levels are controlled by legislation?

  • TreenonPoet

     To me, the five (at the moment) readers’ comments on the article to which you link make more sense than the cardinal.

    What does Pell mean by the ‘rise’ of India and China? If he is arguing in favour of a rise in their population levels, then he is either ignorant or an idiot. The populations of China and India are higher than the sustainable levels by about 750 million and 500 million respectively.

  • Parasum

    “A new generation of young men and women in China are challenging their country’s one-child policy”

    ## The authorities of the People’s Republic of China will have ways dealing with them, as they do with all dissidents.  What do the authorities of the P. R.C. care for “international scrutiny” ? They know the West is all hot air and no action; the Chinese authorities also know that when push comes to shove, all the high-sounding condemnation is very short-lived, and always gives way to hard facts such as the West’s need of, & desire for Chinese goods. If the price of better iPhones, iPads, & computing materials is a few thousand million abortions, or a few thousand million sterilisations, or even a bit of genocide, the West can be relied on to prefer the abortions, sterilisations, & genocide to not having what China can produce in the way of electronic gadgetry and computer parts. People in the West are selfish so-and-sos, & any government moronic enough to act as though morals and bio-ethics actually mattered would not be in government for long; people wouldn’t stand for losing the electronic & other goodies that are put together in Chinese concentration camps.

    The authorities of the P. R. C. are many things, but they are not idiots. They know from experience that Western huffing & puffing about human rights is for all practical purposes – the only ones that matter -  completely meaningless, and that Western politicians can’t afford to try acting as though their fine words meant anything. So this news is going to be just another spot of easily-repressed bother. Western politicians will probably trot out the usual moralistic bilge – but they know which side their bread’s buttered on. China does; the West does; so do the voters. So it is fatuous to suggest that there is going to be any change: the one-child policy is here to stay, whether people like it or not. The Chinese authorities approve of it, & that is all that matters. They can’t be made to change it – so why should they ? Even if Beijing were reduced to a radio-active heap of ruins by a couple of ICBMs, that would leave most of China untouched – they can take a few hundred million casualties as easily as we can take a flea-bite. Nuking China would merely get rid of some surplus population – hardly a loss to a regime that doesn’t care a button about human rights or human dignity. Why should they ? They’re Communists, therefore, materialists. From that POV, people do not matter. So why should the authorities not carry on getting rid of unwanted human mouths to feed ? People can protest as noisily they like – they lack either the power, or the influence, or the will, or the perseverance, or a combination of these, to change the policy. Certainly anyone who hopes for Western aid is sure to be disappointed. As the Tian-an-men Square massacre proves.

  • Parasum

     China is a super-power already. His comment is only 40 years late.

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    No it isn’t.  China has a long way to go before becoming a superpower….and won’t make it if it keeps going in a secular direction.  Anyhow….Christianity is growing in leaps and bounds in China!  Thank God!

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    I don’t see how you cannot understand his argument.  Clearly he means becoming a superpower and major force in the world.  And the Catholic Church always argues in favour of increased population levels in response to God’s command to go forth and multiply.

    Sustainable levels?!  Who are you to judge such a thing.  God must be laughing at you.  Nobody has said that humanity must stay on this one planet forever.  Only luddites and the curmudgeonly think so.

  • Oconnord

    Are you going to repeat your Space Ark idea again?

  • TreenonPoet

     I might just as justifiably ask who are you to judge that you have been indoctrinated into the one true religion and not one of the thousands of fakes? The capability to make such a judgement was taken away from you when you became convinced that religious faith trumped evidence.

    The advantage of science is that anybody can judge it. If a UK scientist makes a scientific assertion, someone from Australia can check it. Compare that with the religious assertion that the Bible is inspired by God. Not only is there no way of checking it, but the evidence seems to contradict it. Why, for example, would a perfect God inspire a self-contradictory Bible that contains factual errors. I have no more reason to believe that God said “go forth and multiply” than I have to believe that the world is flat.

    Nobody has said that humanity must stay on this one planet forever.

    So you are aware of developments in technology that nobody else seems to be aware of? Or have you just been reading too much science fiction? The assessment of sustainable levels is subject to sustainable advances in technology (for example, ones that are not over-dependent on oil), but if you do not know whether such advances will be made, you should not pretend that you do. Having faith that such advances will be made, or praying for such advances, is not enough to make them happen.