By Calum MacLeod
BEIJING – A couple forced into an abortion for not paying the fine for an extra child say they are being tormented by Chinese authorities despite the punishment of seven officials connected to the case.
“Over 10 people here watch us 24 hours a day,” said Deng Jicai, who is caring for her sister-in-law Feng Jianmei in the Zengjia township hospital where the abortion took place.
Her brother and Feng’s husband, Deng Jiyuan, telephoned Tuesday to report he was safe in another town after a beating he took in their home province of Shaanxi, where townspeople held a protest march Sunday against the family.
Marchers accused the family of being “traitors” for complaining to foreign news media that Feng was forced into a car June 2 by authorities, taken to a hospital and given drugs to induce labor and end her pregnancy at seven months.
Photos posted on the Internet of Feng lying in her hospital bed with her dead baby daughter by her side sparked unusual and widespread anger in a nation long accustomed to both voluntary and forced abortions. Feng and her husband, who have a 5-year-old daughter, were unable to pay in time the fine for having a second child.
Seven Chinese officials have been punished, including two firings, in connection with the incident, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday. While the Chinese government remains committed to controlling family sizes, an online survey on Tencent QQ, a popular microblog, found almost 83% of respondents considered family planning policy “inhumane” and said it should be abolished.
Ankang city authorities, in charge of Zengjia township, said their investigation showed that Feng’s late-term, forced abortion was a “rule-violating responsibility incident,” prompting disciplinary measures such as “records of demerit” for the hospital dean, Xinhua reported.
The result of the investigation angered some Chinese.
Yang Zhizhu, a law professor fired for having a second child, complained that the announcement said nothing about whether criminal procedures will be initiated against any of the authorities involved.
“What’s worse, the reason for the punishment is late-term abortion, but they didn’t say that forced, late-term abortion is not right,” he wrote.
Beijing-based rights lawyer Zhang Kai said he was certain the protests against the family have been organized by the local communist authorities.
“The aim is to scare people and put pressure” on the family, said Zhang, who met with Deng Jiyuan. Chinese society “must change from the current ‘stability maintenance’ model to a rule of law model. We should not try to cover up one mistake with another.”
Social stability is a key performance measure for officials, who react strongly when they’ve been embarrassed, said Sarah Schafer, a Hong Kong-based China researcher for Amnesty International.
“If it’s true that local officials are still punishing this family, that is horrendous and inexcusable,” she said. “The pressure to meet population quotas must stop.”