I just watched a compelling HBO documentary entitled "China's Stolen Children", which sheds light on the dark side of their one-child policy. After 3 decades of enforcing the planned birth policy, things have turned ugly, particularly for the poor in China. Instituted in 1979 by Deng Xiaoping to control the threat of a projected population explosion which would have taxed the economic resources of the communist country, the Chinese government implemented a birth control policy that effectively paved the way for forced abortions and sterilizations, and human trafficking. The latter is what the documentary focuses on.
What happens when you force couples to give birth to just one child, or face a huge fine that most can ill afford? They resort to either aborting or selling their children. According to the British Society For The Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC)
It has been calculated that between 1971 and 1985 alone there were some 100 million coercive birth-control "operations" in China, including forced sterilisations and forced abortions (Dr John Aird, Slaughter of the Innocents, AEI Press, 1991). In 1983 a massive campaign of compulsory birth control surgeries was carried out, which reportedly produced 14 million abortions, 21 million sterilisations and 18 million IUD insertions. This campaign was directed by the then minister-in-charge of the State Family Planning Commission (SFPC), Qian Xinzhong.
And what happens when the cultural preference is for male children? Although female infanticide occurred prior to the creation of the People's Republic of China, and prior to establishing the one-child policy, after almost 3 decades of selective birthing (i.e. let's abort this baby girl, because we want a boy) there is a dearth of marriageable women. And what happens when there aren't enough women to marry? You create a need, and human traffickers have now taken to kidnapping young women to be sold as brides.
"China's Stolen Children", which was filmed undercover, shares the heart-breaking stories of various people who have come face to face with what happens when a government chooses to enforce a policy that goes against nature. One young couple had their 5 year-old son Chen Jie kidnapped while in the care of his grandmother. Hiring a detective, who dedicates his time to tracking down stolen children, they have yet to find the boy, and the likelihood is very slim. We witness a daring rescue of a young kidnapped teen, by Detective Zhu, but success is rare, and Zhu talks about giving it all up. They also follow the exploits of a trafficker, who sold his own son, who brokers deals between mothers and potential buyers. One couple, who are not old enough to marry (women must be 20 and men 22), decide to sell their newborn baby girl because they do not have the money to pay the requisite fine, and children born out of wedlock have no identity or rights. And although buyers prefer male babies, there are those who will settle for a female. In some cases, they will opt for a girl to raise as a wife for their son.
Although it was only intended as a short term remedy, the Chinese government plans to continue with the one-child policy until at least 2012, and seems more intent on keeping the problem of human trafficking quiet, according to Detective Zhu, than helping to stop the illegal practice. And so more children will be stolen or aborted.
It is estimated that by the end of this decade, 40 to 60 million girls will have been abandoned or aborted.