Women harmed by China’s draconian family planning policies still seek redress — Radio Free Asia

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese women are still seeking redress after their health was destroyed by botched or untested reproductive procedures aimed at keeping births within the limits set by Beijing.

Peng Dongxiang, from Qianjiang in the central province of Hubei, gave birth to two children in defiance of population controls, angering local authorities.

“We did what the government said and went to the family planning center to get injections,” Peng said. “But they were experimenting on us, they were using our bodies.”

“They injected us directly into the fallopian tubes… I passed out and felt freezing cold instantly,” Peng recalled. “Later they told me I had to have another injection because I hadn’t had a tubal ligation, but that second injection ruined my health.”

Peng suffered from decades of lower back pain, abdominal pain, and organ adhesions, and was bedridden for several years immediately after the sterilization injections. Her sons were sent to live with their grandparents because she could no longer work.

“Yes [my husband’s family] didn’t treat me well, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Peng, who has been engaged for more than a decade in an effort to seek redress through official channels.

She knows hundreds of other women from Qianjiang who have had similar experiences.

“Some of them died instantly…the government didn’t care and just injected anyone at the time, even pregnant women,” Peng said.

Birth quota

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long controlled the reproductive lives of Chinese women, primarily through a decades-long one-child policy that has led to widespread violence and human rights abuses. women’s rights by local family planning officials willing to respect birth quotas.

This period became infamous worldwide for the use of forced late abortions, compulsory sterilization, female infanticide or selective abortion and constant monitoring of women’s fertility, as well as attacks violence, forced evictions and other deprivations imposed on families guilty of “excess”. births.”

Liang Zhongtang, a former government adviser on family planning, said women in Qianjiang might have been subjected to a particular form of “adhesive surgery” that was used in Hubei, Sichuan and Shanxi in the mid-1980s.

“The National Family Planning Commission supported this method to some extent at the time,” Liang said. “But … the operation was not recognized by the Ministry of Health, so it was abandoned after a while.”

But the women have yet to find redress for their grievances.

One of Qianjiang’s victims said she was exhausted from years of petitions and official violence, and gave up the fight.

Another said she had stopped petitioning for fear that her children’s careers would be politically tainted by her actions.

“My family (…) needs to earn money so that I can continue taking my medication and stay alive,” a 60-year-old woman told RFA. “If I give an interview to the media, will my son lose his job? Will they refuse to pay my compensation?”

Liang said poorly educated rural cadres likely also contributed to women’s suffering.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, there were very few medical institutions in rural areas below the county level, and the conditions were not right for the implementation of such family planning policies,” said Liang said.

In December 2007, Zhang Weiqing, then director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, admitted that one-third of the 150,000 family planning technical service staff – those who perform abortions and sterilizations – had no medical qualifications, while many facilities used outdated equipment.

An official who answered the phone to the Qianjiang municipal government denied there was a problem with the mass sterilization of women in the 1980s.

“[You will] need evidence and basis for this…and if you investigate I think you will find…it never happened; it’s a rumour,” the official said.

Repeated appeals to the Hubei provincial health commission and the Qianjiang municipal health commission went unanswered in early April.

Call for compensation

Zhang Jing, founder of New York-based Women’s Rights in China, said the CCP has long controlled the reproductive lives of Chinese women.

“If the party tells you to give birth, you will give birth. If it tells you not to, then you won’t,” Zhang said. “It’s a terrible and tragic policy.”

Zhang called on the CCP to set up a national compensation system for women who have been harmed by family planning policies over the years.

“The CCP and the Chinese government control Chinese women’s wombs,” she said, adding that rural women are the most vulnerable to the kinds of abuse and mistreatment described by Qianjiang women.

And they are not the only victims.

Jing Liping, 58, lives alone in a dangerous building on the outskirts of Beijing.

She gave birth to a single child more than three decades ago, then spent a month recovering at her husband’s family home in the western province of Gansu.

There, the local family planning team caught up with her and forced her to undergo a tubal ligation using metal clamps.

Jing’s health was also destroyed by the procedure, she told RFA.

“Doctors told me my fallopian tubes were inflamed…but I had to rely on others to get me anti-inflammatory drugs,” Jing said. “No local doctor in Gansu wanted to help me because I was tied up.”

“It wasn’t until 2017 when I passed out on the side of the road and was sent to the hospital that they found a problem with the clips. My fallopian tubes were inflamed for a long time and they already had necrosis of the tissues, so I could only have them removed,” said Jing, whose husband left her, taking the couple’s son, because she started to pass out every time. the couple were attempting to have intercourse.

A staff member named Zheng who answered the phone at the Gansu Provincial Health Commission said officials did not approve Jing’s procedure, which was allegedly performed based on medical advice.” expert”.

“This decision can only be made by experts…whose opinions we respect,” the official said.

Jing rejected that response and insisted on an explanation, saying she will file another appeal in her petition for some kind of recognition and redress.

“Why were my fallopian tubes inflamed? Why did I lose my sexual function after the contraceptive operation? ” she says. “They should explain it clearly.”

Xi Jinping’s U-turn

Chen Guangcheng, a US-based human rights lawyer who has helped rural women fight violent family planning policies in eastern Shandong province, said violence has always been an integral part of politics family planning in China.

“[Family planning] is a tool used by the Communist Party to control the people,” Chen told RFA. “The biggest obstacle to the realization of the rule of law in China is the CCP. The party and the state are above the law.”

Since the CCP under Xi Jinping announced a U-turn and began encouraging couples to have up to three children, the government has made it its mission to get women to remove their intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs) , with 3.25 million IUDs removed from women in 2019 alone.

But even IUD-related procedures are not without risk in the wrong hands.

Teng Youxia, who lives in the eastern province of Anhui, was left in critical condition after her internal organs were punctured during a botched IUD insertion procedure, but no hospital was ready to help. due to association with the family planning regimen.

“They put in the IUD in 2013, but halfway through the procedure, my wife started bleeding heavily, so they didn’t complete the procedure,” Teng’s husband Li Kai told RFA. “It wasn’t until we went to Kunshan Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital in Jiangsu in 2013 that we found the IUD was still inside her.”

In early April 2022, repeated calls to the Anhui Provincial Health Commission and the Wuhu Municipal Health Commission went unanswered during office hours.

At one point, Li and Teng were violently kidnapped by local officials in Anhui and prevented from seeing a doctor. They were turned down by more than 20 hospitals before finally finding one that would help them.

“All the money I earn goes to my wife’s medical care, otherwise she would have died long ago,” Li said. “I want the government to be held accountable for its own actions.”

“Ordinary people’s lives should not be used as a springboard for public servants to advance their careers.”

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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