Forced abortion casts shadow over human rights plan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 June, 2012, 12:00am


Authorities might have to ask themselves if they are serious about the latest national plan to protect human rights after reports emerged about a Shaanxi woman who was forced to abort a seven-month-old fetus.

Shaanxi-based reported on Tuesday that county officials forced Feng Jianmei , 22, from Ankang to abort her fetus early this month after she and her husband failed to pay fines for having a second child. Photos of the fetus next to the distressed mother in bed were posted online by a relative, triggering national outrage over how the woman was treated.

The revelation came one day after the State Council's Information Office made public the council's human rights action plan for 2012-15 via official media outlets including Xinhua and People's Daily.

The plan, the second of its kind the mainland has drafted since 2009, has been greeted with praise by state media, and hailed it as an indication that human rights had emerged as a major theme in social development and nation-building. 'It signalled that human rights development in China has entered a new stage where rights will be improved in an all-round and steady fashion with a plan,' it said.

A signed commentary in Beijing Daily on Friday said the action plan stressed the need to improve social justice and harmony and ensure every member of society led a better life and one with greater dignity.

'The action plan is a further sign of the country's growing confidence over the issue of human rights. The improvement of human rights is about taking good care of our businesses on our own terms in order to serve the interests of our own people.'

News site based in Hunan said on Tuesday that China was well qualified to become a role model in the world because of its heightened concerns over rights issues and its pragmatic approach towards their protection.

It said China was among 29 nations in the world to have an action plan for human rights protection and was one of just eight to have had two or more such plans.

While citing broader rights issues the action plan contained, an editorial in Legal Weekly, affiliated with the Legal Daily, said what was most important was how it was implemented. 'The validity of a legal document is not about what has been written in the paper, but its enforcement through due judicial procedure and how much it can keep government authorities in check,' the editorial said.

The media campaign touting the plan was quickly overshadowed by the abortion case in Shaanxi. Feng and her family rejected official claims she had agreed to the abortion so as to comply with family-planning policies.

Instead she told the Huashang Daily she was forced into an ambulance and taken to a hospital.

State-controlled media outlets have mostly stayed away from the swelling online anger surrounding the case. Both Xinhua and People's Daily ran follow-up stories, but they largely parroted official lines, including Thursday's suspension of the three officials linked to the abortion.

The Chinese-language edition of Global Times is among the few state media outlets to condemn the late-term abortion. In an editorial on Wednesday, it called for enforcement of family-planning policies to be adjusted in accordance with growing awareness of human rights and moral responsibility in the broader community.

Writing on, a state-owned news portal in Jiangxi province, Lu Guoping, a local commentator, blamed the abortion on policies that historically have condoned officials using force in disregard of the law and human rights. Family-planning awareness campaigns in the past have used such slogans as 'one unplanned birth will result in the whole village being sterilised'.

'Women who violate the family-planning policies are entitled to basic human rights, and their violations can only be dealt with in accordance with the law,' Lu said.

Likening the enforcement of family planning to widespread forced demolitions, Lu said local governments had turned their crackdowns on unplanned births into a cash cow.

In an opinion piece on, Mang Lu on Thursday said: 'Those responsible must be held to account over such a gross violation of people's rights and disregard for human life.'