Revival of U.S. Aid Stirs Unease about Beijing's One-Child Policy; Population Fund's Foes Warn of Coercion

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 18, 2009 | Go to article overview

Revival of U.S. Aid Stirs Unease about Beijing's One-Child Policy; Population Fund's Foes Warn of Coercion


Byline: Matthew Purple, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Obama administration's decision to restore U.S. support for the United Nations Population Fund has reignited controversy over how China implements its one-child policy.

The population fund, or UNFPA, has a presence in more than 140 countries.

Its mission is to provide aid for family planning and promote women's rights worldwide, with the aim of assuring universal access to reproductive health services.

The main priority of the UNFPA is to prevent women from dying giving birth in Africa, South America and Asia. That is our priority number one, said Abubakar Dungus, a UNFPA spokesman.

Mr. Obama's restoration of U.S. funding to the UNFPA marked the latest shift in a political seesaw that dates back to the Reagan administration and reflects the conflicting agendas of Republicans and Democrats.

President Reagan cut off funding and President Clinton restored it. President George W. Bush again cut off funding, and one of Mr. Obama's first acts in office was to resume it.

Critics assert that the organization has had an overly cozy relationship with the Chinese government, which tries to limit women to having one child, a policy that sometimes has been enforced through coercion.

It's very clear that the U.N. Population Fund is a cheerleader for the [Chinese family planning] program, is funding the program, and turns a blind eye to forced abortion and forced sterilization, said Stephen Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute (PRI), a pro-life group that has been critical of UNFPA.

Mr. Mosher, a longtime critic of China's one-child policy, sent a private team to China's Sihui county in Guangdong province in 2001 to investigate UNFPA's involvement with China's population program.

The team found that voluntary family planning was virtually nonexistent and forced abortions and sterilizations were official policy. Women who refused the procedures risked punitive fines, destruction of their homes and even imprisonment, according to a subsequent report filed by the team.

The local UNFPA official operated out of the Office of Family Planning in Sihui, the investigators said.

It is inconceivable that the U.N. population official who worked in the same office did not know what was going on, Mr. Mosher said.

Other investigations, however, have come to different conclusions.

The State Department sent three ambassadors to China in 2002 to investigate whether forced abortions and sterilizations had occurred.

The team's findings contradicted those of PRI. The ambassadors reported that the Chinese government used coercive population control, but said they found no evidence that the UNFPA had any involvement. A British investigation produced the same result.

Nevertheless, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell wrote a letter to Congress shortly thereafter recommending that funding for UNFPA be denied under a law known as the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which forbids the U.S. government from funding coercive abortions and sterilizations.

Mr. Powell said the Chinese used computers and vehicles donated by the UNFPA to enforce their population policies.

Critics said Mr. Powell was acting under political pressure and that the State Department's findings vindicated UNFPA.

But Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and a longtime abortion foe, said he also toured China and heard stories similar to those documented by PRI.

He said the State Department and British delegations had been shown only Potemkin village towns, where residents had been threatened into lying about the family planning program. He also charged that the teams spent most of their time in Beijing with Chinese officials. …

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