London (CNSNews.com) - Shocking pictures of an apparent victim of China's "one-child policy" - a newborn baby girl lying dead in a gutter, ignored by passers-by - have prompted shock and revulsion in Britain.
The pictures, published in a UK newspaper Wednesday, come at a time British government officials are holding talks in China over human rights issues.
The U.S. administration is also this week expected to decide on whether to support an annual U.N. resolution condemning China's human rights record. Members of the Senate Tuesday introduced a resolution urging President Bush to "take the lead" in an international censure of Beijing.
The photographs were taken by a horrified visitor and smuggled out of China after police questioned her for photographing the dead child, and confiscated films.
The woman said the baby's naked body, spotted lying alongside a road in a small town in Hunan province, was still warm - she had clearly been dumped and had just died.
Many passers-by on their way to work ignored the child, the Mirror quoted her as saying, while some stopped to look, then walked on. Pictures showed life going on as normal, until an elderly man eventually put the tiny body into a box and carried it away.
The woman said she called the police, who took more than three hours to arrive. When they did, they questioned her for an hour, checked her identification papers, and took all her film, except for one she managed to hide.
China's population is expected to increase from 1.26 billion at the end of 1999 to 1.6 billion in 2050.
Under a "one-child policy," introduced in 1979 to help slow down the galloping population growth rate, parents are routinely sterilized, and face large fines if they have more than one child.
The government claims it has successfully prevented 250 million births since it was introduced.
But it has also been estimated that the policy has resulted in there being 60 million more males in China than females. Many parents, aware they will only have one child to look after them in their old age, want that child to be a son, say human rights campaigners.
As a result, parents who can afford it have their child screened in the womb, and then abort girls. Those who give birth to girls may abandon them or leave them to die.
Determination of gender during ultrasound scans has been officially banned for a number of years, but the practice continues. One 1999 report on the International Planned Parenthood Federation website says that between 500,000 and 750,000 unborn Chinese girls are aborted every year after sex screening.
Last August Western newspapers reported a case in which family planning officials had killed an unauthorized baby in front of its parents.
The Huang family already had three children when the mother fell pregnant again, according to the reports. Having botched an attempt to induce an abortion, family-planning officials then ordered the father to kill the newborn baby, which he instead tried to hide away. Eventually they found the baby boy and drowned him in a rice paddy, in front of the parents.
"China's population-control policies allow petty bureaucrats across the country a free hand to ruin people's lives as they extort bribes and gifts and dispense life-or-death decisions," one London newspaper reported at the time.
After a public outcry, authorities reportedly arrested three family planning officials.
According to information provided by the Chinese Embassy in the UK, the government views the policy as benefiting the whole of society. It insists that "forced abortion and sterilization are strictly prohibited by the Chinese laws and offenders will be punished according to law."
A Taiwan newspaper last December quoted the director of China's state family planning commission as admitting that the policy has led to forced abortions, sex-selective abortions, as well as infanticide and the abandonment of newly born baby girls.
But China would go on implementing the policy, he said, while continuing to oppose "coercion" and "induced abortion."
The policy has been relaxed in some areas, and some parents are allowed to have a second child, in return for paying a fee, often more than a year's wages.
Britain's largest pro-life organization, Life, said that while the pictures were deeply upsetting, it was grateful to the photographer for getting out images depicting so vividly "the depths that China's so-called family-planning policy has sunk to."
Life spokesperson Nuala Scarisbrick commented on the obvious indifference of passers-by to the abandoned baby.
"Evidently in China they have become as de-sensitized to the horror of culling new-born children as we in the western world have become to destroying pre-born children."
Scarisbrick also used the opportunity to berate the UK government for funding international family-planning agencies that promote abortion. She called on the government to follow Bush's example, and stop using taxpayers' money to support them.
The human rights organization Amnesty International said while it did not have a position of the "one-child policy" itself, it was opposed to the resulting human rights violations.
"We believe the Chinese government should take action to ensure that its family planning officials do not commit human rights violations by making women have abortions, even physically detaining them to have abortions," said Amnesty's Isabel Kelly.
Gary Streeter, international development spokesman for the opposition Conservative Party, said Wednesday it was essential that the UK contributed in no way to "this appalling practice" and lobbied Beijing to ensure that it ends.
In a letter to International Development Secretary Clare Short, Streeter called for an extensive review of all UK-funded Chinese government and non-governmental bodies "to ensure that no British taxpayers' money is directly or indirectly supporting the one-child policy."
A spokesperson for Short said in response to queries that the department "does not fund population control in China or anywhere else."