HOW THE U.S. HELPS CHINA CONTROL BIRTHS
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
* 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."
This article was taken from the July 2, 1995 issue of "Our Sunday
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