China suspends three local officials in seven-month forced abortion case
By Gillian Wong ,AP
June 16, 2012, 12:04 am TWN
BEIJING -- China suspended three officials and apologized to a woman who was forced to undergo an abortion seven months into her pregnancy in a case that sparked an uproar after graphic photos of the mother and her dead baby were circulated online.
The moves appeared to be aimed at allaying public anger over a case that has triggered renewed criticism of China's widely hated one-child limit. Designed to control the country's exploding population, the policy has led to often violently imposed forced abortions and sterilizations as local authorities pursue birth quotas set by Beijing.
Feng Jianmei, 23, was beaten by officials and forced to abort the baby at seven months on June 2 because her family could not afford a 40,000-yuan (US$6,300) fine for having a second child, Chinese media reported this week.
Photos of Feng lying on a hospital bed with the blood-covered baby, reportedly stillborn after a chemical injection killed it, were posted online and went viral, prompting a public outpouring of sympathy and outrage.
A commentary posted on the official website China.org.cn said the forced abortion "is society's shame." Another said the case exposed the lack of humanity in some administrative officials.
The government of Ankang city, where Feng lives in northwest China's Shaanxi province, said a deputy mayor visited Feng and her husband in the hospital, apologized to them and said officials would be suspended amid an investigation.
"Today, I am here on behalf of the municipal government to see you and express our sincere apology to you. I hope to get your understanding," Deputy Mayor Du Shouping said, according to a statement on the city government's website Friday.
Feng and her husband could not immediately be reached Friday. A relative who answered Feng's cellphone said the couple were in talks with city officials.
The official Xinhua News Agency said three officials would be relieved of their duties: two top local family planning officials and the head of the township government.
But one expert said the officials are unlikely to be seriously punished for a problem that has existed for three decades, and that is usually a result of orders carried out to meet the central government's population quotas.
"They're just pulling a trick to deal with the public. It's just a pretense," said Liang Zhongtang, a demography expert at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. "I think this case will end up being ignored and forgotten like similar cases were in the past. Things have always been like this. Nobody will be fired."
China legalized abortion in the 1950s, but it didn't become common until the government began enforcing a one-child limit to stem population growth.