But of course, the one-child-per-family policy is not a Catholic issue; it’s a human issue. To restrict the family size of a Buddhist couple or an atheist couple—and worse, to force a mother to abort an “unauthorized” child—is just as bad as it would be to so restrict a Catholic couple. As Chinese dissident and human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng said to me last fall, forced abortion “is an issue of undervaluing life. It is done so frequently that the concept of the importance or sacredness of human life is diluted.”
And, as his interpreter affirmed for me, Chen has no religious affiliation.
It’s a basic human aspiration to have children.
As the world marks the 25th anniversary of the devastating end of the Beijing Spring—and takes stock of what progress has or hasn’t been made to fulfil the dreams of the students of the 1980s—it’s worth noting that this issue still very much plagues China. Hundreds of families had their children snatched away from them in the Square that night, but hundreds of thousands of parents have since then had their children snatched away too. Millions of boys and girls have been denied the chance to have a brother or sister. Hundreds of thousands of grandparents will not have the chance to see the flowering of their families.
Tiananmen means “gate of heavenly peace,” a phrase that took on an ironic meaning the night of June 3-4, 1989. The “men” part of it—the gate—was closed to the openness and dreams and hopes of a younger generation to make their society a better place, one in which man could truly flourish. The door was closed, and the students were afraid to knock again.
And, in so many homes in sprawling cities and throughout the vast countryside, the gate of heavenly peace—the door that opens to the joy of new life—has continued to shut, as a woman’s fertility is subjected to the plans of the state.
It’s easy to talk and write about the very dramatic events of Tiananmen Square. It’s easy to generate public outrage over such a crackdown. It’s not as easy to convey the tragedies that take place on an individual basis across the country. Like the young couple who came to me to discuss their problem in private, the stories of thousands of women who have been forcibly aborted or sterilized tend to get a hushed-up treatment. Were it not for people like Chen Guangcheng, Chris and Marie Smith, Steve Mosher, Reggie Littlejohn, and many others, there may be little hope of the door to true peace ever opening again.
John Burgeris News Editor for Aleteia.org’s English edition. He has worked as a reporter and editor for over 21 years, and his work has appeared in Catholic Digest, Catholic World Report, Crisis, Family Foundations, Fathers for Good, Human Life Review, and the National Catholic Register.