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Pro-life message spreads in China

BEIJING (BP)–Individuals in China are using various forms of media to communicate the pro-life message in the face of the country’s coercive abortion regime.

Opponents of abortion are using Internet sites, DVDs and booklets to deliver the pro-life message, according to a report by the Global Times newspaper. Chinese pro-lifers recognize, however, their mission is daunting on a variety of levels.

While pro-lifers in China work against the power of the world’s strongest Communist system, Christians in unregistered churches reportedly are the targets of a new crackdown by the government. Top-secret information showed the Chinese Communist Party initiated Dec. 1 a four-month campaign known as Operation Deterrence against the network of “underground” congregations, according to ChinaAid Association.

Government-mandated population control — commonly referred to as a one-child policy — has been in effect in the world’s most populous country for more than 30 years. The policy generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities now may have second babies if the husband and wife were only children.

During the three-decade program, the state actions against women have included forced abortions, even on women in the eighth and ninth months of pregnancy, and compulsory sterilizations. Infanticide, especially of female babies, also has been reported. Penalties for violations of the policy also have included fines, arrests and the destruction of homes.

At least 13 million abortions are performed in China each year, according to an estimate by the country’s National Population and Family Planning Commission, the Global Times reported Nov. 2. There are about 20 million live births annually.

Chinese women undergo an average of 3.4 abortions apiece, with some having as many as 15, said Zheng Shurong, an obstetrician at the Peking University First Hospital.

Chu Yuhan, 28, who had five abortions before publishing an anti-abortion booklet and establishing an Internet discussion group earlier this year, is one Chinese citizen who is challenging the norm in her homeland. A 46-page booklet she wrote was circulated among more than 3,000 people in three months, according to the Global Times.

Others who are seeking to inform their fellow Chinese about abortion, according to the newspaper, include:

— Chen Huankai, 29, a former soldier who sold 230 copies online in October of an anti-abortion DVD he produced.

— Chen Qin, a 27-year-old interior designer, who started the country’s first anti-abortion website that attracts an average of 50 hits per day.

— Ye Genggeng, 45, a former software engineer who began a website named “Save Baby” and distributed more than 20,000 pro-life fliers to universities and a hospital.

They are “very brave” in the face of overpowering odds, said Reggie Littlejohn, an American expert on China’s one-child policy, of the Chinese who are advancing the pro-life message.

“China’s pro-life movement is indeed nascent, as the [Chinese Communist Party] has poured out three decades of propaganda to the effect that a fetus is not a person — even up to the ninth month of pregnancy — and a woman’s body is not her own,” Littlejohn told Baptist Press by e-mail. She is ChinaAid’s authority on the one-child policy and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, which works to end coercive abortion and sexual slavery in China.

“These two beliefs together form the basis of the coercive enforcement of the one-child policy, in which family planning police grab women off the streets or out of their homes, strap them down to tables and force them to abort babies that they want,” Littlejohn said. “In such an oppressive, coercive environment, the idea that women should be allowed to choose to have babies is slow in coming.”

Chu and others acknowledged the handicap pro-lifers confront.

“Many Chinese are morally challenged by pro-life values but will stick to the prevailing pro-choice attitude,” Chu told the Global Times.

Tao Guangshi, an obstetrics professor at a university hospital in Changsha, said, “There’s a medical machinery of supervisory departments, public hospitals and private clinics, all protecting this practice for vested interests.”

He Guanghu, a religious studies professor at Renmin University of Beijing, told the Global Times, “With a religious population of less than 10 percent, the pro-life activists will generally be stranded when trying to start up popular movements.”

The church, however, may soon be prepared to make an unprecedented impact on abortion in China.

An American pro-life leader recently met with more than 100 pastors of unregistered Chinese churches during three days of training. They studied what the Bible teaches about the sanctity of human life, forgiveness in Christ for those who have aborted their children and the call to rescue those threatened by abortion, he told Baptist Press.

The reaction was “quite stunning,” said the leader, who asked that his name not be used. “They received this with great lamentation and conviction and tears” and talked about how they could start a pregnancy help movement in China, he said.

Unregistered churches face a new challenge, according to secret instructions obtained by ChinaAid. The document from the Communist Politburo labeled the unregistered church a “cult” and outlined a plan for Chinese security personnel to investigate house churches through March.

ChinaAid said the directive provided the following reasons for identifying the network of unregistered churches as a “cult:”

— “The house churches advocate and promote the Christianization of China;

— “The house churches seek the unity of all churches in China;

— “The house churches seek the unity of the Chinese church with churches worldwide;

— “The house churches want to have dialogue with the government.”

ChinaAid, which denies those descriptions fit a “cult,” expressed concern the government may use the label as part of a campaign against the unregistered church in the same way Beijing used it against the Falun Gong, a sect that practices meditation and non-violence. The Chinese government has harshly repressed the Falun Gong over the last decade, and its adherents may constitute as much as half of China’s labor camp population, ChinaAid said.

The Christian population of China is unknown. ChinaAid estimates the total number of Christians is anywhere from 40 to 100 million. The latest estimate on China’s population is 1.34 billion.

In an earlier development, Beijing police detained and interrogated Nov. 24 a house church pastor who also is a leading defender of the rights of Chinese Christians in what may have been a precursor to the crackdown. Fan Yafeng, who had been under house arrest since Nov. 1, was taken by force from his home and questioned for more than four hours about supposedly illegally “engaging in activities under the guise of a social organization,” according to ChinaAid.

Fan, director of Christian Human Rights Lawyers of China, was awarded the 2009 John Leland Religious Liberty Award by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.