Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chinese officials linked to forced-abortion scandal punished

(LA Times) Several Chinese officials tied to a forced abortion that spurred national outrage will be punished, and one has already been dropped from his post, Chinese state media reported.

The scandal erupted this month after graphic photos of the grieving mother and her aborted seven-month fetus spread online. The case in Shaanxi province, west of Beijing, drew new anger over the enforcement of family-planning rules, even bringing condemnation from a newspaper linked to the Communist Party.

Following the outcry, a municipal government investigation found that forcing the young woman to terminate her pregnancy so late in its term violated her rights, the official Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday. The township also illegally demanded an approximately $6,200 payment for a certificate allowing her to have a second child, which her family did not pay, the report stated.

The investigation found that officials "used crude means to violate her intentions," Xinhua reported.

The head of family planning in Zhenping county has been removed from his post, Xinhua reported. Other township, county and hospital officials were also punished, including another Zhenping family-planning official, who was given "administrative demerits," the news agency reported.

While punishments are reportedly being meted out to local officials, the Shaanxi family is said to be suffering a backlash for speaking out on the explosive case. The husband of the grieving mother has been beaten and forced into hiding, while other family members have been labeled traitors and kept under close surveillance, his sister told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Although the Shaanxi case has created a furor in China, "the case was unusual only in the publicity that the photographs generated," The Times' Barbara Demick recently wrote, reporting on a forced abortion that led to the death of a mother in Lijin. Forced abortions and sterilizations infuriate villagers there:

Walk into the village's one general store and a group of men lets loose a stream of expletives about the coercive methods used by family planning officials. It is not that the men are morally opposed to abortion, they say, or even to limits on family size, but to the violence that often accompanies enforcement.

"I support the family planning policy, but not their methods," said Ji Shuqiang, 42, working behind the cash register at the village store. "If they find a woman who's pregnant, no matter how far along, they'll make you have an abortion."

Similar abuses were exposed by Chen Guangcheng, the blind attorney who escaped house arrest and holed up in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing seeking help before China allowed him to study in the United States.

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