The Chinese government has reached a cash settlement with the family of a woman forced by local officials to abort her baby. But activists say the case is only the beginning of a long battle to reverse China's decades-long one-child policy.
Authorities in China's northern Shaanxi province abducted Feng Jianmei last month and forced her to have an abortion, seven months into her pregnancy, after she failed to pay a $6,300 fine for being pregnant with a second child.
After pictures surfaced online reported to show the bloodied fetus of Feng's baby, the government issued a rare apology and conducted an investigation that led to the firing of several officials.
Chinese state media declared the controversy to be finished on Wednesday after Feng's husband, Deng Jiyuan, agreed to drop all legal appeals in exchange for a $11,000 compensation package.
But activists, including Bob Fu of the U.S.-based rights group ChinaAid, say no amount of cash can compensate for the years of injustices that have allegedly resulted from China's sometimes violently enforced family planning policies.
“The bottom line is there are hundreds and thousands of [cases like] Feng Jianmei every day happening like that. So the forced abortions even in the past few weeks, from the cases we have received, there are horrible, horrible stories. Some women experience much worse than Feng Jianmei.”
Since China's one-child policy was implemented in 1978 in an effort to curb population growth, millions of women have reportedly been forced to end their “illegal” pregnancies.
Fu, who spoke at a U.S. Congressional hearing on the matter this week, notes that the international community has recently increased pressure on China to end the policy. He says Chinese citizens are growing bolder to speak out on the matter.
“I think there is a wake-up call already, from the inside out. I think with the international consensus to address this war against women for the past 30 years, and the Chinese people's own [collective] consciousness, and speaking up and standing up — that will change the policy. I am very optimistic, but of course it will be a long road.”
The Feng Jianmei case comes just weeks after the incident involving blind Chinese dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who angered Chinese officials by exposing abuses related to enforcement of the one-child policy.
Chen sparked a diplomatic problem between Beijing and Washington after he said he feared retaliation by Chinese authorities. He has since fled to temporarily exile in the United States.
Ultimately, Fu says such cases demonstrate that the one-child policy is “inhumane.” But he says it may also prove to be economically unsustainable, as China struggles to deal with a rapidly-growing population and a growing gender imbalance that has come as a result of families choosing to keep boys but abort girls.