Local officials aim to sterilise 9, 559 people by 26 April, some against their will, in a drive to meet family planning targets in Puning City, Guangdong Province, southern China.
According to reports in the Chinese media, on 7 April the local authorities in Puning City began a special campaign to sterilise people who already have at least one child, to ensure that local birth control quotas are met. The local authorities claim that by the end of 11 April, the 20-day campaign had already met 50 per cent of its target.
A local doctor, quoted in the Chinese media, said that his team was working from 8am until 4am the next day performing surgeries for sterilisation. Local reports suggest at least some people are not freely consenting to being sterilised. Amnesty International considers forced sterilisations carried out by officials to amount to torture and the haste of the procedures raises questions about their safety and possible health impacts.
In addition, the Puning City authorities have detained 1, 377 family members of couples targeted for sterilisation. Most of the detained are elderly and some are held in cramped conditions in houses which the local authorities are using temporarily as unofficial places of detention. This is widely seen to be a mechanism to pressure their relatives to undergo sterilisations.
The Puning City local authorities have defended the campaign saying that there are large numbers of migrant workers who are of childbearing age in the area and that some of the residents have misunderstood and hence not complied with the family planning regulations.
Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said:
“Forced sterilisation amounts to torture, and it is appalling that the authorities are subjecting people to such an invasive procedure against their will. Reports that relatives are imprisoned as a means of pressurising couples into submitting to surgery are incredibly concerning. The Puning City authorities must condemn this practice immediately and ensure that others are not forcibly sterilised.”
In September 2002, China introduced a Population and Family Planning Law in a stated attempt to standardise policies and practice in the implementation of family planning policies across the country and to safeguard citizens’ rights. For example, coercion in implementation of the policy is forbidden by law. However, local birth quotas, upheld by stiff penalties as well as rewards, play a prominent part in the policy. Reports of coerced abortions and sterilisations have continued and few officials are believed to have been brought to justice or punished for such abuses.
In March 2007, approximately 30 delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an official advisory body, supported a proposal calling for an end to China’s restrictive family planning policies. The head of the State Population and Family Planning Commission did not rule out a future relaxation, but stressed that no change would be made for at least the next four years.
Children born outside the quota are not issued residency registration documents known as hukou. Without hukou, they have no access to health care, education or other social security provisions. In addition, the local authorities in Puning have stated that they will not be accepting the applications for building houses by families that have more than the allowed number of children or their relatives.