Biden Won’t ‘Second Guess’ Chinese on One-Child Policy

By Patrick Goodenough | August 23, 2011 | 4:56am EDT

Vice President Joe Biden meets with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the Purple Light Pavillion in Beijing on August 19, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

( – As remarks by Vice President Joe Biden expressing an understanding of China’s one-child policy resonate in pro-life circles, a U.S. House bill seeks to deny entry into the United States of any Chinese official involved in rights abuses, including coercive population control measures.

Speaking to students in southwest China on Sunday, Biden brought up the controversial one-child policy. His only criticism was not directed at the coercive elements of the state-mandated system, which includes forced abortions and sterilizations and prohibitive fines for non-compliance. Instead, he argued that the policy was “not sustainable” for economic reasons.

The comments came in response to a question from a Sichuan University student relating to the U.S. deficit and recent credit-rating downgrade. In his answer, Biden referred to Medicare entitlements, the debt ceiling deal and efforts to reduce the deficit.

“But as I was talking to some of your leaders, you share a similar concern here in China,” he continued. “You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand – I’m not second-guessing – of one child per family. The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.”

Introduced in the 1970s, China’s birth-limitation policy has prevented some 400 million births, according to official figures.

The policy generally restricts couples to having one child. Exceptions are made in some cases, with rural dwellers and ethnic minority couples permitted a second child if their firstborn is a girl.

Critics say the policy not only deprives couples the right to choose the size of their families, but also gives rise to an array of human rights violations, including forced abortion and sterilization, infanticide, sex-selective abortions favoring boys and the levying of punitive fines or loss of jobs for those who contravene the policy. According to official Chinese media, fines range from three to eight times the average per capita income.

Other consequences include a fast-aging population and associated decline in the annual supply of new labor – in a society where elderly parents have traditionally relied on their children for support, demographers and economists have warned. Officials have also reported an increasing gender imbalance in favor of males, prompting concerns about future social difficulties.

Last June, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) introduced the China Democracy Promotion Act of 2011, a bill that provides the president with the authority to deny access to the U.S. of anyone linked to a range of human rights violations in China.

One of the specified targets of the legislation is anyone who “has participated in the imposition of the People’s Republic of China’s coercive birth limitation policy.”

Co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.), Dan Burton (Ind.) and Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), the bill was referred in July to the Judiciary Committee subcommittee dealing with immigration policy and enforcement.

Last week, Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) added his name to the list of cosponsors, a step that critics of the one-child policy – such as Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers – says will increase the likelihood of it moving through the committee Smith chairs.

“The time for this bill to pass is now,” Littlejohn said late Monday.

“Decades ago, Congress barred foreign persecutors from obtaining asylum in the United States, to keep out former Nazi war criminals. Why should Chinese officials who force women to have abortions, persecute ethnic minorities, torture people for their religious beliefs, repress public interest lawyers and jail journalists be treated any differently?”

“These persecutors need to be held accountable,” she said. “They do not deserve to set foot on U.S. soil.”

‘Not second-guessing means not opposing’

Littlejohn said that even if the legislation passes, it will be up to the president to enforce it and deny entry to Chinese rights abusers.

“Nothing in his record thus far indicates that President Obama would deny visas to Chinese government persecutors, at least where the one-child policy is concerned,” she said.

“To the contrary, President Obama restored funding to UNFPA, which former Secretary of State Colin Powell found to be working hand-in-hand with the Chinese coercive family planning machine.”

Citing the one-child policy, the Bush administration from 2002 withheld funding for the U.N. Population Fund – which operates in China – in line with U.S. legislation prohibiting funds for any agency that “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

The UNFPA consistently denied that its work in China supports coercive measures. Obama reversed the policy soon after taking office.

Littlejohn also noted the vice president’s remarks in China this week.

“If Biden ‘fully understands’ the one-child policy, then he understands it is enforced through forced abortion,” she said. “If he is ‘not second-guessing’ it, then he is not opposing it.”

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