Nov. 5, 2011 -- Yeqing Ji from Shanghai, China, will most likely not be able to have children after she said two forced abortions physically impaired her uterus.
The story of Ji and others who say they sufferered from abuses were shared at three separate congressional hearings this week about human rights in China, including one hearing regarding a new bill to prohibit entrance to the U.S. of human rights offenders from China. If passed and enforced, such a law could effect business and diplomatic relations with China, one of the United States' most important trading partners.
Europe has looked into help from China, the world's second largest economy, in its euro zone rescue package. At the G-20 summit, however, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said he is confident Europe will be able to overcome its debt crisis, reported Reuters.
The country's one child policy, however, has caused emotional and physical scars for Ji, a mother of one, who said she was forced to abort her second child in 2003 due to the policy. She said the clinic where she had discovered she was pregnant with her second child reported her to authorities.
Members of the family planning commission of Xiaomiao village came to her home and told her she was breaking the law. Unless she had an abortion, she was threatened with a fine of 200,000 yuan, or $31,300, more than three times her salary combined with that of her husband. Unable to pay, she said she had the abortion.
Ji said she continued taking contraceptive pills while her in-laws, who wanted a grandson, insisted she try for another pregnancy, promising to pay for any future fines.
When she became pregnant again in 2006, Ji said local authorities confronted her and told her she was breaking the law.
"We were willing to take the punishment of fines and losing our jobs. It wasn't as important to us as our child," she said through a translator.
This time, the authorities refused payment in fines and "dragged" her outside and beat her husband. Ji said she was sedated and the abortion was performed while she was unconscious. They had also installed an intrauterine device into her uterus after the abortion and told her she was responsible for its cost. Ji, now 35, had the device removed in the U.S., but her doctor found cervical erosion that will hinder her ability to have children.
"After the abortion, I felt empty, as if something was scooped out of me. My husband and I had been so excited for our new baby. Now, suddenly, all that hope and joy and excitement had disappeared, all in an instant," she said.
The state of China's human rights appear to be worsening, according to Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who helped host the three Congressional hearings this week.
"This is a crime against women," Smith told ABC News. "The agony that those women carry with them is beyond words. They talk about the pain that they carry for their child and for the violation by the state."
At one hearing on Wednesday, Ling Chai, founder of the nonprofit group, All Girls Allowed, shared Ji's story again and that of Jihong Ma, a woman who reportedly died last month from a forced abortion in Shandong Province. Ling chronicles her own experiences of forced abortions in her book released last month, "A Heart for Freedom."
Statistics on the number of forced abortions are not readily available, though China has said the one-child policy has prevented 400 million births after its implementation in 1978. The country has also said it has about 13 million abortions each year, averaging 35,000 abortions a day.
The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China released a report explaining that "in areas of human rights and rule of law this year, China's leaders have grown more assertive in their violations of rights, disregarding the very laws and international standards that they claim to uphold [thereby] tightening their grip on Chinese society."
The latest annual report, released on Oct. 11, stated "China's leaders no longer respond to criticism by simply denying that rights have been abused. Rather, they increasingly use the language of international laws to defend their actions."
The U.S. however, has tread carefully with China, America's second largest trading partner after Canada, according to the Census bureau.
Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental human rights organization, said she concurred that 2011 has been an especially difficult year for human rights defenders in China. She said that China has been "unnerved by the Arab Spring uprisings," and with the world's attention on the Middle East, the Chinese government cracked down on dissent "to an extent we have not seen in over a decade."
"The authorities also strengthened internet and press censorship, put under surveillance and restricted the activities of many critics, and took the unprecedented step of rounding up over thirty of them, disappearing them for weeks," Richardson said in a congressional hearing on Thursday.
One disappearance is that of blind human rights activist Guangcheng Chen, for whom the commission held an emergency hearing on Tuesday. After documenting population planning abuses, Chen was sentenced to prison in 2006 for "organizing a group of people to disturb traffic order." After being released in September 2010, Chen, his wife, and 6-year-old daughter have been under house arrest but has recently disappeared, Smith testified with other experts on China.
Smith, chairman of commission, is sponsoring the China Democracy Promotion Act of 2011, to prevent those who have violated the rights of Chen from entering the U.S.
The bill, for which the House judiciary committee held a hearing on Wednesday, proposes to the State Department that it compile a list of known human rights offenders from receiving travel visas.
Smith wrote a similar bill, signed into law in 1999, that requires the Secretary of State not to issue any visas to foreign nationals who have been directly involved in the establishment or enforcement of forced abortion or forced sterilization.
But Smith said to his knowledge, that law has not been enforced.
In August, the White House announced a proclamation barring human rights violators and persons who commit war crimes from entering the country. President Obama also announced the establishment of an interagency Atrocities Prevention Board aimed at detecting and elevating early warning signs to better prevent potential atrocities.
In Smith's bill, however, the law targets senior governmental leadership, their immediate family members and anyone else who has committed human rights abuse in China. The bill also targets anyone who has "derived significant financial benefit" from actions related to forced abortion and involuntary sterilization and all other human rights abuses.
The "very inclusive, large list," according to Smith, includes "the violent repression or persecution of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongolians," or other ethnic minorities in China, "trafficking of North Korean refugees or their forcible return to North Korea," and violent repression, imprisonment and torture of "religious believers, democracy adherents, workers rights advocates, independent media, journalists and internet users."
Smith said the intent of the bill is to proclaim that the U.S. takes "human rights seriously."
Peter Morici, former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission and professor at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business, said the White House would have to take up the bill if it is to make headway in foreign policy and the bill would only gain momentum if it makes it to the Senate.
Smith acknowledges the complexities in the bill, but with input from the State Department and other experts, he hopes it will at least shed light on the most egregious human rights offenders.
Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch, said that whenever the U.S. government articulates a "clear penalty" for human rights abuses by Chinese government officials, the penalty does have a deterrent effect.
"Often what we have seen is that it's not really clear there's a price to be paid for human rights abuses," Richardson said. "That fundamentally undermines any administration's claims that the U.S. will not subordinate human rights issues for the sake of a bilateral relationship."