Through her tears, Mei, my former colleague apologized profusely in a team meeting at my workplace in China 30 years ago. Accidentally getting pregnant again after having her child, Mei broke China’s family planning policy – an offense that would render her whole team losing the annual bonus. Her vivid image of agony popped up to my mind instantly when the news came out that China reversed its brutally enforced one-child policy that forcibly sculpted citizens’ lives for over three decades.
China’s notorious family planning policy has wreaked havoc across the country, leaving hundreds of millions of women like Mei going through forced abortion or suffering phycological trauma. Mei had been battling with low self-esteem and depression after her abortion, as well as physical conditions caused by IUD – an “involuntary, forced acts of mutilation.”
In an era marked by state’s broad reach into citizen’s bedrooms and wombs, Mei’s experience was only a tip of the iceberg, representing an oppressed and tightly controlled totalitarian nation living in a world that George Orwell predicted in "1984”.
China’s widespread practices stoked strong condemnation from the international community and ran deeply afoul of human rights laws. Interfering with citizens’ private lives was frowned upon in Canada starting as early as 1967 when the young Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau had introduced a bill that decriminalized homosexuality. "There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation," said Trudeau.
Today, Justine Trudeau has continued his father’s legacy of legalizing sexual equality, taking more steps towards getting the government out of the nation’s bedrooms. In 2017, the Trudeau government issued heartfelt apologies to the LGBT community for abusing their sexual rights, offering compensations in hundreds of millions to those affected by the government's brutal interference.
However, three decades later, the Chinese government continued to extend its authority into citizens’ private lives, this time to promote childbirth by forcing people to engage sexual activity. Amid a variety of social and economic problems -- particularly a shortage of labor market, an aging population, and rising health care costs, the government obsessed with GDP growth has realized the dampened economic harm caused by the deeply flawed policy and decided to expunge family restrictions.
Instead of issue an apology to women like Mei, the government seems following the same playbook of discouraging birth and returning to brutality, coercion, and cruelty to encourage delivery. A policy widely adopted across the country limits abortion after 14 weeks’ pregnancy.
“This country never treats people like real human beings. Citizens are nothing but tools for the government to achieve its political goals.” a 22-year-old university student in Beijing told the Globe and Mail.
Mei, who lost her reproductive ability under the old policy, expressed her anger over the policies that treat citizens like political pawns and women like labor units. “The abortion has left a permanent scar in my heart, which is a living proof that the government messed up with my reproductive rights… However, it can’t interfere with my daughter’s. She has decided not to follow the call to have the second child!”
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