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PV 05/07/2012 - 17.3
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Thursday, 5 July 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

17.3. Forced abortion scandal in China (debate)
Video of the speeches

  President. – The next item is the debate on six motions for resolutions on the forced abortion scandal in China(1).


  Charles Tannock, author. – Mr President, the forced abortion scandal in China is truly shocking. Feng Jianmei was subject to arbitrary arrest and detention by local officials in Zengjia and, after allegedly being assaulted, was subject to a horrific forced abortion in the seventh month of pregnancy. I condemn, as does my group, this barbaric act and welcome the resulting widespread public outcry within China, which was somewhat unusual.

Regrettably, sex selective abortions and even female infanticide persist in China, despite campaigns and incentives aimed at preventing and prohibiting these horrendous practices. This has led to an increasing gender imbalance with 118 newborn males for every 100 females, according to the latest census figures.

The Commission must ensure that the EU budget does not fund any organisation or entity directly or indirectly involved in coercive family planning policies. The High Representative must, as a priority, place forced abortion and forced sterilisation at the top of the agenda of the next EU-China human rights dialogue.


  Alojz Peterle, author. (SL) Mr President, this resolution is based on a fundamental value of the European Union, as expressed by Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It says that human dignity is inviolable.

The example in China of the abortion forced on a 22-year-old woman in the seventh month of pregnancy is a fact that demands our attention and a clear understanding. We condemn the carrying out of coercive abortions in China as a grave violation of human rights.

We urge China to review its one-child policy and we urge the European Union to include the issue of coercive abortions in its human rights dialogue with China.

European taxpayers need to be completely clear what their money has been used for and it should only be used according to our values and principles.


  Raül Romeva i Rueda, author. – Mr President, on 2 June 2012 in Zhenping, a seven-month pregnant woman called Feng Jianmei was kidnapped, forcibly taken to hospital, beaten and injected with a product which induced abortion, provoking the death of the foetus. The municipal government of Ankang conducted an investigation that concluded that the officials in Zhenping County used crude means and persuaded her to abort the foetus.

It is important to stress this was known basically thanks to an Internet campaign and this underlines the importance of freedom of expression, including online.

In this particular case, I would like to remind Members that, according to the international conference on population and development plan of action, the aim of family planning programmes must be to enable couples and individuals to make free, responsible and informed decisions about child-bearing and to make available to them a full range of safe, effective and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice. Any form of coercion has no part to play.

This is why we first extend our condolences to the family of the victims, strongly condemn the harassment to which they are being subjected, and demand public protection for them. We also condemn the decision to force Ms Feng to have an abortion and condemn as well the practice of forced abortions and sterilisations globally, especially in the context of the one-child policy. We also consider important the ongoing debate by intellectuals and academics in China on the one-child policy.


  Marietje Schaake, author. – Mr President, last month, the world was informed through the Internet that Feng Jianmei was abducted and underwent a forced abortion when seven months pregnant. Local authorities did take action, but this was by no means an isolated incident. Infanticide, which is the killing of newborn babies, as well as the massive sex-selective abortions that take place in China, are happening in the context of the one-child policy.

These sex-selective abortions have led to a deviation in expected demography by as much 40 million – I just want to repeat this – 40 million missing girls. People should be able to make their own choices about planning whether to have children or not and they should be able to do so in a safe way. Any form of coercion is wrong, first of all, and disproportionately targets women.

It is important that all women have access to reproductive health care as a fundamental right, including family planning and assisted child care. It is time that the UN, and UN Women, started investigating what is happening in China in a systematic manner.

Lastly, let me highlight the fact that this case, which thankfully has sparked so much discussion in China and in Europe, came to our attention as a result of the Internet, which allowed this story to spread. So let us also focus on the importance of Internet freedom and fighting mass censorship, including in China.


  Marie-Christine Vergiat, author. (FR) Mr President, the right of every woman to have control over her own body is a fundamental right. To use this right for political purposes, or indeed for party-political purposes, is not worthy of those who claim to defend the universalism of human rights, as recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Some people on these benches, men more than women, are doing everything they can to undermine this right. They are fighting a rearguard action and, today, they are seeking to exploit an emergency session on human rights. It is pathetic.

Feng Jianmei was subjected to a forced abortion, like other women in China, and elsewhere in the world. This heinous act, which violates Chinese law, must be condemned, as must all practices that prevent women from deciding freely whether or not to have a child. Internet networks have seized on this tragedy and opened a broad debate in China. An investigation is under way.

China is a country of more than 1 300 million inhabitants. On account of its one-child policy, it is going to experience population ageing on a scale that has not been seen in the world. The Chinese authorities now seem ready to review this policy. We should encourage them, through political dialogue, to move in this direction.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))


  Marek Henryk Migalski (ECR), Blue-card question. (PL) It is obvious that, as you said, a woman has a right to her body. However, surely this does not relate to the child. I understand that a woman – like a man – has a right to her leg or to her arm, but not to the child. If you believe that the child inside a woman’s body is a part of the woman’s body, I would like to ask up to what month you think it is part of the woman’s body and whether it is also part of the woman’s body after the birth.


  Marie-Christine Vergiat, Blue card answer. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this debate on the right to life of the foetus is the old mantra of all those opposed to abortion.

I am in favour of the right of women to have control over their own body. I stand by that. Stop these false debates. Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of an emergency session on human rights. These are serious problems, which do not deserve to be exploited for party political purposes. What is at stake here is the lives of women in China, who are dying because the law is not being applied. We need to ensure that the law is complied with. When the law protects women, it must be complied with. However, do not seek to introduce into that debate another debate that has nothing to do with the subject at hand.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))


  Bernd Posselt (PPE), Blue-card question.(DE) Ms Vergiat, I really do not understand you at all. I have no hidden agenda here, but simply wish to repeat the question: do you, or do you not believe that an unborn child in its seventh month of development has the right to life – as is the consensus throughout the EU? Are you questioning the right to life of a seven-month-old unborn child? This is the actual issue at stake; after all, it was the child and not the mother that was killed by a lethal injection.


  Marie-Christine Vergiat, Blue card answer. (FR) Mr President, you have made yourself perfectly clear, Mr Posselt. You want a right to life of the foetus and you are opposed to abortion.

Personally, I defend the right of women to have control over their own body. It is for women to decide and not for men to tell them what they must do with their body.


  Sari Essayah, on behalf of the PPE Group. (FI) Mr President, China’s one-child policy has once again shown how cruel it is. A woman who was seven months pregnant was forced to have an abortion because the couple expecting the child already had a child, and they could not afford to pay the fine imposed for an additional one.

China’s one-child policy, which deeply offends human rights, and the rights of women in particular, prescribes that families in cities can have one child, and families in rural areas two, if the firstborn is a girl. This has also led to selective abortions undertaken on the grounds of gender, with millions of babies being aborted simply because they are girls. This has led, and will lead, to an ever worsening democratic problem in China, because 40 million women will be missing from society, as Ms Schaake said here.

I would hope that this debate will remain a respectful one and that we understand that the first right of every human being is the right to be born into this world


  Joanna Senyszyn , on behalf of the S&D Group. (PL) Mr President, the Chinese one-child policy – or two-child policy in the countryside – is a violation of fundamental human rights. It is implemented primarily through abortions and sterilisations. Sex education and birth control are inadequate. In 2011, only 12% of young Chinese had knowledge about contraception. Every year, 13 million abortions are carried out in China, that is to say, 35 000 per day. Only a relaxed family planning policy, accurate sex education and increased availability of contraception can decrease the rate of abortion in China. Forced abortions must be categorically eliminated as a form of cruel and intolerable state violence against women. No state has a right to force either the termination of a pregnancy or its continuation against a woman’s will. Forced abortion, like the prohibition of abortion, is a form of totalitarianism and unacceptable interference by the state with the reproductive rights of women. In both cases, the consequences are similar. Women lose their health, die or are maimed for life. Unwanted children are abused, and even killed. Currently, the population in China is increasing mainly as a result of people living longer, and not because they have many children. Permitting greater fertility may help China change its deteriorating demographic structure.


  Kristiina Ojuland, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, the abduction of Feng Jianmei and her subjection to forced abortion was a gross violation of her human rights. In addition to the investigation of the case of Feng Jianmei, carried out by the municipal government of Ankang, the Chinese authorities should investigate the full scale of forced abortions and sterilisations across the country.

China’s one-child policy has also led to illegal and sex-selective abortions, which discredits the measures that have been taken to implement the policy. The public outrage that followed the disclosure of the fate of Feng Jianmei should be directed at reviewing and modernising the one-child policy. Family planning ought to be based on personal choice everywhere in the world. China should invest more in sex education and promote the use of contraceptives.


  Jaroslav Paška, on behalf of the EFD Group. (SK) Mr President, it is unbelievable what can happen through a combination of bad legislation and perverse, callous officials implementing such legislation.

In the form in which it is applied by Chinese officials, the one-child policy that China has implemented for decades essentially amounts to administrative violence against the people of the country.

No government that has the idea of controlling the population should use violence to that end. It is up to parents to decide on the size of their family and the number of children. The state should intervene in their decision making only through adequate awareness raising, with information on effective and acceptable family planning methods or material incentives in the form of state-supported solutions when parents are making decisions.

The case of the forced abortion in Zhenping was brought to public attention only thanks to the Internet. I am sure it is not the only family tragedy brought about by the disrespect shown by the state authorities towards the people of China.

If it is true that the Chinese Government is now aware of the immorality and unsustainable nature of such behaviour of the state and acknowledges the error of its officials, it is our duty to call for a speeding up of the changes needed in the approach of the Chinese administration to the people of the country.


  Franz Obermayr (NI).(DE) Mr President, the photo of the Chinese woman lying next to her aborted foetus in hospital has sent shock waves around the world. I do not believe that anyone could fail to be moved by the story. The woman was already seven months pregnant with her second baby but was arrested by the regional authorities and forced to have an abortion. As she was unable to pay the fine of CNY 40 000, or EUR 5 021, for violating the one-child policy, she was held captive and, after three days, five men administered the lethal injection to the foetus.

Words fail me in relation to this unbelievable and detestable inhumanity. This is not, however, an isolated incident. According to the national planning authorities, 400 million births have been prevented since the introduction of the one-child policy in 1979. In rural areas in particular, regional authorities try to impose their regulations with illegal enforced abortions and fines. Unlike some other Members of this House, I do not believe it enough simply to press forward with human rights dialogue with China. If the EU is really serious about human rights, it must boycott all imported products from China until these inhumane practices are brought under control and the one-child policy is changed.


  Bogusław Sonik (PPE). (PL) Mr President, it is difficult not to express deep concern over the issue of forced abortions in China. The one-child policy is not only a rule intended to reduce the high population growth in China, but also the cause of forced abortions and deaths of mothers and children. The fact that 23-year old Feng Jianmei was subjected to a forced abortion in the seventh month of pregnancy is inhumane. This case is proof that the methods used to enforce strict family planning rules are reprehensible; even if the authorities in China have already punished those responsible for this cruel act, this is not a guarantee that the situation will not repeat itself.

Forced sterilisation and abortion are a violation of fundamental human rights and demonstrate a lack of respect for new life. This is an expression of a particular form of violence against women and mothers. Restrictive policies trigger ever greater protest in Chinese society. Young women are scared for their lives, because many of them die after the forced interventions. The methods of enforcing existing rules are unacceptable.


  Roberta Angelilli (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in China, the one-child policy has led to the birth rate being controlled through violent coercive measures, including forced abortion up to eight months and forced sterilisation. Whoever conceives a child outside of the quota set out by the State is issued with a steep fine. Whoever opposes termination of the pregnancy, including family members, is punished with a prison sentence, and their house may also be destroyed.

It is an atrocity and an unacceptable violation of human rights to subject a woman to a termination just because she does not have a permit from the government. It really would be simplistic to describe this as a simple trauma suffered by one woman, and not surprisingly, according to the World Health Organisation, women in China have a higher suicide rate than men. A pregnancy that is terminated should be defined as true child murder.


  Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska (PPE). (PL) Mr President, in today’s resolution, the European Parliament condemns the practice of forced abortions and sterilisations in China. The official family planning policy which allows families to have only one child and leads to abortions of female children violates human rights and the integrity of the female body, and deserves the strongest criticism and political intervention. Coercive measures used against women forcing them into abortions, as well as pressure and intimidation, are inhumane instruments of pressure used on mothers to rid themselves of their children.

The case of Ms Feng Jianmei shows that forced abortions of foetuses that could be capable of independent existence outside their mother’s body also take place. Between 90% and 95% of seven month old babies born in Europe have a chance of survival, which means they are no longer foetuses, but fully formed human beings. This cannot be tolerated or considered normal procedure within official family planning policy. Our protest should not be limited to words, but should translate into concrete action.


Catch-the-eye procedure


  Michael Gahler (PPE).(DE) Mr President, if a one-child policy leads to forced abortions, then this is something to be condemned, irrespective of whether this is the result of an official decree or because the perpetrators believe that their actions will be covered up by the authorities. Fortunately, matters like this can no longer be hushed up, thanks to the Internet. It also seems like a positive development that the local authorities are to pay compensation and intend punishing those involved.

Unfortunately, this is simply a case of good luck because China’s citizens cannot rely on universal human rights or the protection of the rule of law. Hence, our need to discuss the issue, because the list of those suffering persecution is long and includes writers and journalists, Tibetans who demonstrate against foreign infiltration and repression, Falun Gong practitioners who are tortured in Laogai re-education camps and many other groups. That is why it is right that we keep this issue on the agenda here and seek dialogue with China in this regard.


  Anna Záborská (PPE).(SK) Mr President, the world was shocked to hear about the inhumane actions of the Chinese authorities. Forced abortions are a violation of human rights. They are a manifestation of violence against women and mothers. It is therefore important to raise this topic in bilateral talks with China.

Political control of the population, however, is the real reason why that young woman was taken from her home in the seventh month of her pregnancy, without her family’s knowledge, and forced to abort her child. This policy is an evil which, unfortunately, is also supported by European taxpayers. We are therefore also responsible for the tragedies caused by this policy.

I would therefore like to ask the EU to stop funding organisations which, under the pretext of protecting reproductive rights, perform abortions in countries that are blind to fundamental human rights.


  Peter Skinner (S&D). – Mr President, the one-child policy of China is at the centre of this problem and its implementation through forced abortions and female infanticide is the real measure of its real effects.

The enforcement of this policy should, frankly, be abandoned by the Chinese authorities. I know that we all wish that and, in fact, the policy itself should be completely abandoned too. In the meantime, recognition in China of the terrible forced termination of a seven-month pregnancy because of a refusal to pay a fine is the very least that can be expected.

The Chinese authorities should recognise by now that some social policies just do not and cannot work. Entering into the valuable commercial world of trade, as China has done, demands, of course, similar social standards by their governments. It is time for them to wake up to this.


  Bernd Posselt (PPE).(DE) Mr President, China’s one-child policy is linked with a phenomenon that major 20th century writers from Schlamm to Solzhenitsyn have described as a dictatorship of lies. The Chinese regime claims that this is a campaign by the local authorities. We should not let ourselves be fooled here. This involves a general atmosphere that has been built up systematically over decades and that has its roots in the one-child policy. As long as the one-child policy exists, we will have forced abortions and sterilisations, as well as brutal attacks like those recently perpetrated.

That is why the real issue here is the one-child policy. We must uphold the freedom of the parents – by which I mean a man and a woman Ms Vergiat – to make decisions and we must uphold the right to life of the unborn child. This is true the whole world over. This is also one of the universal human rights, the right to life, from inception to natural death. Even though we do not have such forced policies, we Europeans also need to put our own house in order and to ensure that human beings are not killed in their mother’s womb. That cannot be considered abuse. The focus today is on China, however: based on human rights, we say ‘no’ to the one-child policy.


End of the catch-the-eye procedure


  Ulrike Lunacek (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, you said at the start that you would only take contributions from Members who had not yet spoken. My colleague, Ms Kiil-Nielsen, also wanted to speak during the catch-the-eye procedure. She was not given a chance, but we did hear from Mr Posselt, despite the fact that he has already spoken. This was a blue-card question, but nevertheless. For this reason, I would ask you to allow Ms Kiil-Nielsen to speak.


  President. – Ms Lunacek, the purpose of the catch-the-eye procedure is to make the debate somewhat more lively. In other words, Members who have not been nominated by their groups can be allowed to speak. The blue-card procedure is something quite different. I previously passed over Mr Posselt in the first debate because of the subject matter – he used the blue-card procedure twice – and have decided to give him the floor now. He was not a scheduled speaker, while Ms Kiil-Nielsen was scheduled to speak. We are actually wasting more time than we are saving. The point is, however, that I am trying to bring a little order to the proceedings and that I do not believe I am treating anyone unfairly.


  Connie Hedegaard, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, the EU is aware of recent forced abortion scandals in China, including the appalling case of Ms Feng Jianmei, to which many of you have also referred today.

The EU has also been alarmed by the reported cases of Ms Pan Chunyan from Fujian province and of Ms Cao Ruyi from Hunan province, who were respectively eight and five months pregnant when they were submitted to compulsory measures to abort their children in April and in mid-June.

The EU has taken note that the Chinese authorities have condemned such practices in the case of Ms Feng Jianmei and have announced that an investigation has been launched and that the responsible officials would be punished.

It has also taken note that a large-scale inspection will be conducted in 19 provinces where problems in the implementation of the family planning policy have been reported.

Nevertheless, the EU is concerned by reports that Ms Feng and her family are faced with harassment and retaliation measures due to the publicity they have given to their situation. Thus, the EU will continue to monitor these cases closely.

Forced abortions, forced sterilisations and other instances of violence and coercion against women are illegal in China, but implementation of the law remains an entrenched problem on the ground.

The EU has thus raised its concern about reports of abuses in the enforcement of the family planning policy in China in the context of the last session of the EU-China Human Rights dialogue, which took place in Brussels on 29 May. The EU urged the Chinese authorities to take measures on the ground to ensure that the implementation of the family planning policy conforms with Chinese laws and China’s international human rights obligations.

The EU also expressed its concern about the fact that individuals, activists and lawyers who publicly criticise such punitive enforcement tactics face repressive measures. The EU questioned the legal basis for the harassment and intimidation of the blind human rights defender, Mr Chen Guangcheng, before he left for the United States, who had tried to help victims of illegal practices by local authorities in charge of family planning in Shandong province. After his release from a four-year prison sentence, Mr Chen and his family were placed under illegal house arrest and subjected to violent acts by their guards.

The EU also raised the case of the Chinese human rights defender, Mao Hengfeng, whose fight against forced abortions is well known in Europe. We urged the Chinese authorities to take measures to avoid harassment and physical violence by the police against her. The EU will continue to follow this issue and to raise its concerns with the Chinese authorities.


  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place now.

Written statements (Rule 149)


  Gerard Batten (EFD), in writing. – The horrors of forced abortions in China is just the latest in decades of abuse and torture of Chinese citizens by their communist Party government. We should not forget that since July 20 1999, former Chinese communist party President, Jiang Zemin, ordered the start of the systematic persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, which is still going on. The Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 on China, published on 24th May 2012, states that the Chinese authorities continued to pursue a systematic, nationwide, often violent campaign against Falun Gong; The US State department reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 published on 24th May 2012, where it states that overseas and domestic media and advocacy groups continued to report instances of organ harvesting, particularly from Falun Gong practitioners. All of us who care about democratic government should speak out about the last 13 years of persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China and democratic governments and societies everywhere should send a strong message to the Chinese Government to immediately stop persecuting Falun Gong practitioners in China.


  Tadeusz Zwiefka (PPE), in writing. (PL) China is among the EU’s major economic partners and one of the fastest developing countries, economically speaking, in the world. At the same time, there are known cases of human rights violations in this country. I believe that as Members of the European Parliament, an institution based on a foundation of fundamental rights, we have an obligation to emphasise our disapproval of acts that violate physical and spiritual integrity. The case in Shanxi province, which is the subject of today’s resolution, shows the brutal and merciless implementation by the Chinese authorities of their family planning policy. Needless to say, these actions bring to mind scenes from films or books where the action takes place in the Middle Ages. The European Union has taken on the role of promoter and defender of human rights. In the context of the legislative work aimed at strengthening the rights of children and women, I agree with the text of the resolution, and I think that the European Commission should raise this issue at the next bilateral meeting with China.


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