Hunan Villagers Accuse Population Planning Officials of Abusing Power

April 26, 2006

Villagers in Gaoping county in Hunan province have accused local population planning officials of taking 12 children away from their parents and demanding money for their return, according to a March 21 South China Morning Post (SCMP) article (subscription only). The villagers claim that since 2002 local population planning officials have taken four girls from their biological parents, seven girls from their adoptive parents, and one boy. Villagers claim that officials demanded money for the return of the children, which they were unable to raise, and that when villagers presented their complaints officials detained and beat some of them. About 60 villagers signed a petition demanding the children's return. Officials returned only one child, the boy, reportedly after a National People’s Congress (NPC) delegate intervened.

Officials have denied the accusation that they demanded money for the return of the children. According to the SCMP article, while the officials admitted taking the children, they claimed that the villagers admitted to them that all of the children were adopted, that the adoptions were unregistered, and that the villagers gave up the children voluntarily rather than pay fines. Villagers also told the SCMP that, of the four girls taken from their biological parents, one was her parents' third child, in apparent violation of population planning policy, and three were born to parents whose marriages had not been registered. The director of population planning for Gaoping county said that all the children were sent to an orphanage. Officials denied physically abusing the villagers.

A March 22 SCMP editorial (subscription only) called for the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC) to investigate the villagers' claim that population planning officials sought bribes and detained and beat villagers. China's Population and Family Planning Law requires officials to "perform their administrative duties strictly in accordance with law, and enforce the law in a civil manner" (Article 4) and provides that population planning officials may be subject to criminal punishment for "infringing on a citizen's personal rights... abusing [their] power... demanding or accepting bribes..." (Article 39).

There have been credible reports of widespread physical abuse in enforcing China's population planning policy, such as those disclosed at a December 2004 hearing before a U.S. Congressional committee. In another instance, on September 8, 2005, Yu Xuejun, Director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, issued a statement announcing an investigation into charges that officials in Shandong province had committed abuses. After a preliminary investigation, on September 19, 2005, Yu issued a statement announcing that officials in Shandong province had committed abuses and said that some officials had been dismissed and detained, but did not provide details about these cases. According to a February 3, 2006 Guardian (London) report, Guardian correspondents could not confirm that any Shandong population planning officials had been punished.

Chinese officials have punished citizens who have drawn attention to abuses committed by population planning officials. Officials have detained and beaten Chen Guangcheng, who in August 2005 alerted the world to forced contraception and forced abortion in Shandong province, and detained and tortured Mao Hengfeng, who sued her employer for firing her for refusing to have an abortion. Chen is currently in detention.

For more information on Chen Guangcheng and Mao Hengfeng, see the CECC's Political Prisoner Database. For more information on population planning in China, see the CECC 2005 Annual Report, Section III(i).