How the U.S. Helps China Control Births

Author: Mary Meehan


by Mary Meehan Government documents revealed by a political-asylum lawsuit in York, Pa., show that the U.S. State Department has worked closely with the Chinese government in forcibly returning to China people who have sought refuge in the United States. In August 1993, the State Department told staff at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to inform Chinese officials that their government "has an excellent record of cooperation in receiving Chinese nationals involved in alien smuggling attempts....We are now prepared to begin deportation of large numbers of Chinese nationals who have attempted to enter the U.S. illegally." Despite the migrants' many requests for asylum- often based on the threat of coercive population control in China -the State Department has worked ever since to send them back. In May 1994, after 119 returned to China, U.S. diplomats there cabled the State Department: "Embassy Beijing wishes to commend all personnel who participated in this complicated exercise, carried out under difficult circumstances." While the Clinton administration has been sending people back to China, many members of Congress want the United States to provide asylum to those fleeing Chinese population control. The Chinese program, according to Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., is "the kind of program that only a Nazi could be proud of." In a May 24 House debate, Smith successfully amended a foreign-aid bill to bar U.S. contributions to the United Nations Population Fund-that is, unless the U.N. Population Fund leaves China or Chinese officials stop forcing women to have abortions. The debate, and the 240-181 vote for the Smith amendment, showed a deep split within the House of Representatives, as well as a split between the House majority and the Clinton administration. President Clinton resumed contributions to the U.N. Population Fund that had been suspended in previous administrations because of fund support for Chinese population control. In opposing the Smith amendment, Rep. Constance Morella, R-Md., argued that Smith and the anti-abortion movement were using the U.N. Population Fund's presence in China "as a pretext" to end all U.S. support for the fund. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., however, opposed the Smith amendment while acknowledging "overwhelming evidence of forced abortions and involuntary sterilization" in China and declaring that "we must condemn this brutal policy." China's law Smith also criticized the Chinese for a new law designed to increase population "quality" by preventing births of handicapped babies through sterilization, prenatal testing and abortion. The law, which took effect June 1, is supposed to involve only advice to a woman to have an abortion if her unborn child is handicapped. But critics suspect that abortions will be mandatory in such cases. A 1993 draft of the new law drew plenty of criticism from the West, partly because it openly used the term "eugenics." Much of the criticism subsided, however, after the Chinese dropped that word and said that abortion would be done only with the consent of the woman or her guardian. The Chinese are also considering the legalization of euthanasia, something China expert John Aird said is "consistent with their general interest in getting rid of anybody they can get rid of." An article in the March 25 issue of the British medical journal linked euthanasia with China's effort to have a norm of one child per family. It said there "will be a temporary 'pensioner boom' as the one-child couples reach retirement age, while the workforce, consisting increasingly of only children, continues to shrink. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to see how the health-service books can be made to balance." But what does Chinese population policy mean, today, in human terms? Richard Cook, a New Orleans attorney representing some women the Clinton administration wants to send back to China, has said that one was forcibly sterilized after having her second son. She and her husband also received such a heavy fine that they could not pay it. Then, "they were not allowed to cultivate the land they usually worked," Cook said, so they "collected honey to survive." Local officials fined them again and confiscated their honey. Both fled to the United States. Cook said other women he represents were forced to wear intrauterine devices, to be sterilized, to have abortions or to pay heavy fines for having unauthorized children. Cook represents women who came to the United States illegally on the Golden Venture, a smuggling ship that struck a sand bar off Queens, N.Y., two years ago. Most of the roughly 300 passengers were Chinese men. After the ship hit the sand bar, most jumped into the ocean and tried to swim ashore. Some died in the attempt; some reached the shore and escaped; and some were either sent back to China or given U.S. asylum because of political or religious persecution. About half of them, however, have been "detained" (imprisoned) by immigration officials since they reached America. Volunteer lawyers are fighting to gain asylum for them in this country. Among their supporters are many members of Congress and Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who wrote President Clinton about Cook's clients: "A nation that deliberately sends them back to face such persecution must share some guilt for the harm done to them." Most of the Golden Venture asylum requests allege that the immigrants have been, or maybe, subjected to forced abortion or sterilization. One young man said seven or eight government officials came "to have my wife sterilized" just 10 days after their second child was born. Because his wife had experienced "a very difficult delivery" with much blood loss, he said, she "was in no condition to undergo additional surgery." When he told the officials that he would not allow his wife to be sterilized, "they stated that they would then sterilize me, instead." He refused and, with family and friends, fought the officials. After the officials finally left, he said, his father advised him to flee. He left his village and eventually found his way to the United States on the Golden Venture-and has been imprisoned here for two years. If he is returned to China, he said in his asylum request, he expects to be imprisoned there and also to be "beaten and tortured." He is one of more than 100 men from the Golden Venture who are currently being held in the York County Prison for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo has consolidated the legal claims of the prisoners in a case called YangYou Yivs. Reno. The plaintiff's allege improper White House interference with their asylum cases, and Judge Rambo has made the government produce a huge number of documents so that their claims can be evaluated. Some people, both within and outside the U.S. government, suggest that many Chinese seeking asylum here are "economic migrants" who were encouraged by the Bush policy to make false claims of coercive birth control. In a May 10 interview, Sarah Epstein of Pathfinder International, a population-control group, said Golden Venture women who claim they were forcibly aborted or sterilized are using "asylum language." She suggested that smugglers are telling their clients, "When you come into the United States, say that, because that will get you an asylee privilege." Craig Trebilcock, the attorney defending the Yang You Yi side of the case, disagrees. "There's no crime in wanting to better oneself economically, but that's not the primary reason why these people are here," he said. "The immigration judges found the vast majority" of the claims credible. Their claims were denied because of administration policy, he contended, rather than credibility problems. Smith and others are pressing legislation that would make people fleeing forced abortion or sterilization eligible for political asylum in the United States. Meehan writes from Rockville, MD

U.S. REPLY: FORCED STERILIZATION IS NOT POLITICAL PERSECUTION THE DOCUMENTS UNVEILED IN show much White House concern over the Golden Venture and other ships involved in the smuggling of Chinese immigrants into the United States by "criminal syndicates" who demand fees ranging up to $30,000 or more Immigrants generally make a down payment before boarding the ship, and then work off the remainder of the fee after they reach the United States and find jobs. News stories have confirmed extortion and mistreatment of many immigrants by criminal elements But a February 1994 memo by a U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Services official in Hong Kong said that most Chinese-except those in government-see taking immigrants to the United States "as a reputable business." The U.S government documents also show: * Pressure by the United States on the Chinese government to cut off immigrant smuggling at the source. * The Chinese government's willingness to accept returnees, but its opposition to U. S. asylum for any illegal immigrants. * U.S willingness to provide Chinese officials with information identifying returnees, including photographs and names in Chinese characters. * A tendency of U.S. diplomats in China to de-emphasize punishments given to returnees. * A consistently hard line against most asylum requests by U.S. State Department officials, although Secretary of State Warren Christopher said publicly in 1993 that he was "appalled" by a media story on the "very abhorrent" coercion in Chinese population control. * Pressure on President Clinton by Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif, Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo, and Rep. Ronald Dellums, D-Calif., to end the Bush administration policy of "enhanced consideration" for asylum claims based on forced abortion or sterilization The Bush policy, in a 1990 executive order, contradicted an earlier decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals in Matter of Chang. The Clinton decision supported Matter of Chang, which holds that such control, by itself, does not constitute "persecution" for which asylum can be granted. The documents show that President Clinton wanted to provide administrative discretion to avoid deporting "certain Chinese who have credible claims," according to a 1994 Justice Department -memo. An INS directive issued last August did provide such discretion, but another Justice Department document said it would affect only people "who have presented very severe cases." At least 10 Golden Venture passengers have been paroled as a result of the August directive, but they are not guaranteed a permanent stay in the United States. Attorney Craig Trebilcock, of York, Pa, who is defending Golden Venture immigrants, called the August directive "window dressing" and a policy that "doesn't exist in practice." He said that Chinese women now facing deportation "are evidence of that." Mary Meehan This article was taken from the July 2, 1995 issue of "Our Sunday Visitor". To subscribe write Our Sunday Visitor, Inc, Huntington, In 46750.

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