Chinese health care workers and the 'one-child' policy
Since at least1991, Australia has been faced with Chinese women who
apply for refugee status because of China's 'one-child policy.'
1 These women fear that they will be
forcibly aborted, sterilized and discriminated against if they are
repatriated. Australian authorities were unsympathetic to these claims,
and one Chinese woman, 8 1/2 months pregnant when deported from
Australia, was forced to have an abortion upon her return to China.2
Senate committee hearings were conducted into the matter. One of the
witnesses, who identifed herself by the pseudonym "Dr. Wong", was heard
by the committee in February, 1995, and July, 1999. The following
extracts provide some information about the operation of the 'one-child
policy' and the coercion of health care workers.
Australian Senate Committee
Legal & Constitutional
6 February, 1995(3)
Wong) In the hospital, you can see the women suffer and have pain
for this one-child policy. It is only for this one-child policy that they
came to the hospital; like they are coming to jail. They kill her baby, and
they make her suffer. They make your heart break. This happens every day in
China - every day. You can see the bodies of the babies - like a mountain of
rubbish. Every day you see babies who want to try to get breath and who want
to live. They did not die at first. They want to live. You saw miles of
blood go out, and the mother crying. Every day mothers saw dead babies. The
mothers catch the bare babies and cry.
Australian Senate Committee
Legal & Constitutional 351-360
Monday, 26 July, 1999
Dr. Wong: . . . I was a gynaecologist and obstetrician, and
I worked in a Chinese public hospital for six years - from 1983 to 1989. . .
CHAIR: Without identifying exactly where you come from, can
you tell us where you come from? Are you from a large or a small city or a
rural area? The reason for asking the question is that I have been tld that
the one-child policy is not enforced equally throughout the whole of the
Dr. Wong: Yes. In different cities there is a
difference. The one-child policy is done in a different way. My city has
three million people. My workplace is connected just by boat with the
countryside, so my patients are less from the countryside than from the
city. Als the provinces are different. In the centre of China in some places
in the poor provinces, it is more crude. They force more. In Shanghai and
Guangdong near the east coast, it is much more gentle, but they are much
cleverer, because sometimes they promise you something you can have. But in
the countryside, there is no offer. They just do it. It is very hard. . .
Senator Harradine: Dr. Wong, you trained and got your
medical degree. What made you go into gynaecology? You did study
gynaecology, didn't you?
Dr. Wong: Yes. When the one-child policy was established
in 1979 we needed a lot of specialist gynaecologists and obstetricians to
support that policy. During this time, many universities had special
subjects in gynaecology and obstetrics for training doctors to use in the
hospitals and to deal with abortion and family planning issues. When I
picked up this job I did not realise this would be the main job for us. I
saw the job of a doctor delivering babies as nice. At 18 years old you do
not know anything. I thought it was nice to pick up doctor job. After the
training had finished you practised in the hospital as a student and then
you know what is going on. This time was a very heaving time for the
Senator Harradine: What age were you when you gained
Dr. Wong: I was 22 or 23.
Senator Harradine: After gaining that degree, with whom
did you work? Which institution did you work at? Did you work in a hospital
Dr. Wong: I worked in a hospital. I also visited the
countryside as a city doctor. I did not visit twice. As young doctors, my
workmates had half a year in the countryside and half a year in the city.
They did a lot more than me.
Senator Harradine: Do you have any idea of the number of
abortions you performed?
Dr. Wong: For less than three months it was an everyday
job. Over three months, every week I would do something like 10 in my shift.
I am not talking about other doctors because there were three shifts.
Senator Harradine: How long did that to on for?
Dr. Wong: Six years.
Senator Harradine: Six years?
Dr. Wong: Yes, the hospitals had a special department
for family planning.
Senator Harradine: Were forced sterilisations, the
insertion of the intra-uterine devices and the like part of the practice as
Dr. Wong: Yes, less a practice - this is compulsory.
They have to do it. If the couple have two children - does not matter, girl
or boy - one of them has to be sterilised, otherwise you cannot get medicare
assistance or education assistance and accommodation too. If there is one
child, mostly they like you using IUD because they are easy. The pill is not
easy - sometimes you forget - and the condom is not easy too. With the IUD
nobody can take it out except the doctor; that is a good idea for that. . .
Senator Harradine: The medical profession- people working
as doctors, nurses and so on - would be concerned about the program. Would
any of them, for example, give false certificates just to protect a woman?
Dr. Wong: No, it is difficult. You can do something, but
the policy has a little bit of flexibility. You cannot do it really if it is
a second child. The government already has it on the policy list. If you do
something against the government, you will be punished for that.
Senator Harradine: I think I read two years ago that the
vice-president of a hospital in one of the cities in the province of Henan
was actually executed because he had provided a false certificate.
Dr. Wong: Yes.
Senator Harradine: Is it that serious?
Dr. Wong: It is this serious. If you go against the
government's one-child policy, you get the death penalty. It is similar to
the tax on money from the government. You can get the death penalty, too. .
Senator Cooney: When you say it is a policy, is it written
out as a law? Is there a law that says you are only allowed one child?
Dr. Wong: Yes. That law is not public. Inside China you
cannot see the real paper. Western people cannot see it. Only we can see the
paper but we do not keep it on us. This is the policy. China has not got a
real law. Everything comes to you by policy.
Senator Cooney: That policy is directed from Beijing -
from the central government, is it?
Dr. Wong: The major issue is directed from Beijing but,
when it comes to different states, everybody puts their own things on it. A
different city or a different workplace will put its own things on it. The
Chinese law is a man's law. It is not really like country law. They put
things themselves. . .
Senator Cooney: Do they take into account if you have
religious or moral beliefs? Does that not count?
Dr. Wong: No.
Senator Cooney: There is no conscientious objection?
Dr. Wong: No. They do not think that you are a human
being. They do not think you have got a brain. If you have got a brain, they
wash your brain.
Senator Cooney: What would happen to a doctor or a
hospital which refused to carry out the policy?
Dr. Wong: If you refuse, you would go to jail.
Senator Cooney: You would go to jail.
Dr. Wong: Yes. If you refuse, you must have a good
reason. Nobody can explain a good reason.
Senator Harradine: I see. How long would you go to jail
Dr. Wong: It depends on how you are against the
government. . . 4
1. Tankard Reist, Melinda, "Asylum for a second
child". The Age, December, 1992.
2. Tankard Reist, Melinda, "A Crisis of
Compassion". The Human Life Review, Fall, 1999, Vol. XXV No. 4,
Appendix E, P. 83-85
3. Quoted in Tankard Reist, ibid
4. Xiao Ying Wong told a reporter that
"she felt it was impossible to leave her job. It was futile to complain and
she felt great pressure to continue, being viewed as a competent specialist.
She feared authority (her brother had been in trouble with the authorities
years before) and she did not want to face the punishment, financial loss
and criticism of expressing her distress. Doctors who interfered with the
population control plan were condemned as counter-revolutionaries. . .When
Xiao Ying cried out one day in the hospital, 'Only God can take a life!' she
was told not to bring her religion to work. She lacked the contacts and
influence to obtain a job elsewhere and, because most hospitals were
desperate for abortion doctors, her situation was unlikely to change at
another hospital." Tankard Reist, Melinda, "The face of a murderer?", On
Being, August, 1995.