Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Campaigners who first raised the issue of United Nations Population Fund support for forced abortion in China responded skeptically Thursday to news that the State Department was sending a team to investigate.
Warning the Chinese authorities of the forthcoming trip and giving it time to prepare, pro-lifers said, made it likely a government which had in the past covered up the coercive nature of its population control policies would once again do so.
Population Research Institute President Steve Mosher, the first U.S. social scientist to document China's controversial "one-child policy" in 1979-80, said any team appointed with Beijing's consent and which planned to operate openly in the country would not have "a snowball's chance in hell of finding accurate information."
Mosher said he believes the State Department views the abortion issue as an "irritant" in U.S.-Chinese relations.
PRI director of governmental affairs Scott Weinberg raised concerns about the composition of the fact-finding team. The three members appeared to be weak in the human rights area, he said.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher named the team members as William Brown, a former ambassador to Thailand and Israel; Bonnie Glick, a former State Department staffer with experience in Ethiopia and Nicaragua, and Dr. Theodore Tong, professor of Public Health at the University of Arizona.
Boucher said they would undertake a field trip during the last two weeks of May, aimed at gathering information to help the administration determine whether the UNFPA's China program violates U.S. law. They are expected to provide a report by late June.
The 1985 "Kemp-Kasten amendment" to foreign appropriations legislation denies federal funding for any organization that supports or participates in forced abortion or involuntary sterilization programs.
Presidents Reagan and Bush senior denied the UNFPA funds, but the policy was reversed or watered down during most of President Clinton's two terms.
Last September, Weinberg said, PRI investigators visiting China obtained videotape evidence that "forced abortion and sterilization in China are as bad today as ever in the history of China's one-child policy."
He said PRI had interviewed more than two-dozen victims of or witnesses to coercive practices in the UNFPA's China program.
They had testified about "rampant and unrelenting" abuses, including forced abortion, forced use of IUDs, birth quotas, and punishment such as destruction of homes for non-compliance.
Under subsequent pressure from conservatives, President Bush last January froze $34 million in funds earmarked for the UNFPA for the current year. Pro-lifers want him to permanently withhold funds from the U.N. agency.
'Beware of minders'
Pro-life Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who opposes U.S. funding for the UNFPA, welcomed the announcement of an investigation into the reports of violations in China.
But he, too, voiced concerns about the likely effectiveness of the probe.
"I am concerned that announcing when and where they will be investigating and giving the Chinese government weeks to prepare will make it difficult for the team to discover more than what the Chinese government and UNFPA wants them to know," Smith said.
He urged the three investigators to be "vigilant, tenacious and determined," and to ensure they dealt directly with Chinese villagers - not going through government or UNFPA "translators or minders."
"Any investigation that only listens to the Chinese government and the UNFPA, or people who are under their control, would be a whitewash, worse than no investigation at all."
The UNFPA, which funds population control programs in a host of developing countries, has repeatedly denied the claims about its China program, saying it only entails voluntary family planning.
UNFPA executive director Thoraya Obaid said recently the agency was facing a "financial crisis" because of the accusations.
This week a coalition of religious leaders urged Bush to release the $34 million earmarked for the UNFPA, saying, "Highly respected religious leaders have supported modern family planning as a moral good."
The leaders in a statement quoted Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and South African Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu as supporting "family planning."
The statement was signed by Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist figures from the U.S. and countries in Africa, Europe and Asia.
Last month, the president came under pressure from a different source, when a cross-party group of British lawmakers urged him to refuse funding for the UNFPA, which they said had "funded, supported, praised and defended" China's population policy since the policy's inception more than 20 years ago.
China's official People's Daily reported last January that from 1979 to 1994, the UNFPA gave $160 million to China for "reproductive health, family planning, production of contraceptives, poverty relief, population information and research, and population education."
In 1994, UNFPA stopped funding to China because of U.S. opposition to China's forced abortion policies. Four years later, a new, $14 million program was launched in 32 Chinese counties, in conjunction with the Chinese government and Marie Stopes International, a British-based organization which carries out 35,000 abortions a year.
The new program was, in the words of a UNFPA factsheet, "designed to demonstrate that voluntarism and informed choice are key to successful family planning programs."
But it was in this 32-county program, according to PRI's Weinberg, that the organization's fact-finders last September documented evidence of coercion and abuse.
China Formalizes Controversial 'One Child' Policy (Jan. 3, 2002)
China's 'One-Child Policy' Results In Forced Abortion, Infanticide (Feb 14, 2001)
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