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Population concerns never trump rights

China too is worried about its growing gender imbalance and potential for more social unrest

  • Xiao Cao, Hong Kong
  • China
  • October 31, 2011
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Our global population has just reached seven billion.

Whenever the media talks about population, China and India are usually the first two countries mentioned because of their large populations.

A journalist from the mainland added an unusual context for such discussions in China.

She said she was surprised when a friend told her: “I have nothing to fear [over population] but only worry that my son will be able to find a girlfriend.

The rest of her group listened in amazement, as the speaker’s son was then not yet one year old.

Another mother in the group said: “Now, there are so many boys. What should they do if they cannot find a wife? The government certainly will not crack down on the sex industry, or else social order will be disrupted.”

According to statistical projections, there will be 30 million young men in China by 2020 that will not be able to find a wife.

In other words, one in five men will be bachelors – a figure that almost totals the entire population of Oceania.

Such conversations highlight the growing gender imbalance, a key point of worry among those who are concerned about population growth in China.

Some consider this issue of even more importance than food security, as it can lead to a host of social problems and crimes including human trafficking, the abduction of women, prostitution and other threats to social stability.

China’s patriarchal society and the one-child policy introduced in the late 1970s are no doubt responsible for the gender imbalance.

By virtue of tradition and economy, many parents hope for a male child to carry on the line of inheritance. Abortion and abandoning of female children was common in the 1980s and 1990s.

Some parents have observed that Church-run orphanages are the best places to abandon infant girls, while others including many Catholics who reject birth control have given birth to additional children secretly; they risk not being able to register these extra children officially as part of their household.

I once met the chief of a Catholic village in northern China who fathered four children. He said he could afford to pay the fines for the additional children because his livelihood had improved in recent years.

In other parts of China, women caught after having more than one child have been forced to undergo abortions.

One such instance was reported by media outside of China earlier this month, which involved a woman in her sixth month of pregnancy who died after being forced to have an abortion.

Activist Chen Guangcheng is well-known for the suffering he has endured at the hands of government officials while defending the birth rights of pregnant women.

He was jailed for 51 months in retribution, as many believe, for his work in exposing the issue of forced abortions.

Chen was released in 2010, but he and his family remain under house arrest. Subsequent reports from his supporters allege that he and his family had endured torture.

Chen comes from Linyi, the base of Vatican-approved Bishop Johan Fang Xinyao, president of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

While the “open” Church authorities always claim that evangelization is important for the Church in China’s growth – so important that they defy tradition and ordain bishops without papal mandate – these authorities should also realize that actions speak louder than words in evangelization.

What Chen has done on behalf of pregnant women is exactly what our Church preaches. It does not accept abortion but demands that we cultivate a culture of life.

A priest-blogger who writes under the pen name Shanren has put it this way.

“We should be happy for Bishop Fang that in his diocese there is a person who has a great passion for justice. Chen’s miserable circumstances should get his attention if the bishop remembered that he told the official Xinhua news agency in March in his capacity as a deputy of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference that ‘showing concerns to the poor and the marginalized cannot be empty words without deeds.’”

Xiao Cao is the pseudonym for a China Church worker
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