Human rights activist, at Princeton, discusses China’s one-child policy, religious repression
Totalitarian regimes pose the greatest threat to human civilization, and the free world’s number-one priority should be their demise, said Chinese human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng in a public address at Princeton University on Oct. 16.
Chen, who came to the world’s attention in 2012 after escaping house arrest in his native China, gave the talk as the newly appointed Distinguished Senior Fellow in Human Rights at the Witherspoon Institute’s William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution.
The 41-year-old activist clashed with authorities in China over its one-child-per-family policy and the forced abortions and sterilizations that have occurred in its enforcement. He began documenting such abuses in 2005 and organized class-action litigation against the government’s enforcement of the policy. In 2006 he began a four-year prison sentence, after which he remained under house arrest.
He has not softened his stance since coming to the United States and serving for one year as a fellow at New York University’s School of Law. Before the Princeton audience, he lamented that the situation has changed little since he began his work.
“The more heartbreaking and infuriating thing is that, eight years later, in China today, this kind of systematic anti-human crime is still happening in an organized manner under the leadership of the Communist Party,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. “At 4 AM on September 27, a group of 20 officials from the Family Planning Commission, including 16 men and four women, forced their way into the home of Zhou Guoqiang and his wife, Liu Xinwen, a couple in Weifang, Shandong Province, while they were sleeping. They kicked down the door of the family’s home, held down Zhou Guoqiang and dragged his wife to a hospital by force for an abortion. A six-month baby was killed by a poisonous injection in the mother’s womb. It is more accurate to say that the baby died of the evil system rather than the poisonous injection. Let’s imagine how the parents must have felt when they saw their child being killed and yet they could do nothing to stop it. Reading this news report brought back to my memory the stories and the crying of those helpless women in 2005.”
In an interview afterwards, Chen said the issue of abortion in China is different from the question over its legality in the United States. “I want to emphasize the issue of forced abortion. In Chinese society, the negative impact of forced abortion is very clear. Besides causing a problem with an aging population and an imbalanced gender ratio, it’s also an issue of undervaluing life. It is done so frequently that the concept of the importance or sacredness of human life is diluted.”
In his talk, he called on Americans to urge elected officials “to apply all resources and means to help terminate China’s evil one-child policy and forced abortions. Forcing women to abort their babies is a violation of universal human rights. It tramples on women’s rights, the right of free choice, and also the sacred right of life.” He suggested that “judicial and administrative organizations join hands in establishing a deterrent mechanism for human-rights violators,” such as setting up a global database of such violators, including family planning commission officials complicit in forced abortions.
In a response following the talk, Arthur Waldron, a China expert from the University of Pennsylvania, said that forced abortion has been “imposed on innumerable women in China.” He urged listeners who want to know more about it to read a new novel by Chinese author Ma Jian,