Friday, August 8, 2008

Electric shock torture in Tibet by China !!


Copyright © of Yangchen Kikhang (Independent Tibet Network - UK).
The original article first appeared in 'Gender & Catastrophe'.
Edited by Ronit Lentin. Published by Zed Books (1997).

Women Targeted by China's Population Programme. Cultural Genocide

Tibet has a unique culture stretching back several thousand years and has for most of its history enjoyed the rights and privileges of a sovereign state, having developed its own political, economic and religious system. With a distinct language and written script, Tibet has produced a rich catalogue of musical and artistic treasures. In addition to this legacy an immense body of philosophical teachings has been maintained through Tibet's native religious tradition of Bon and, later, Buddhism. Throughout most of its history Tibet has been a peaceful nation, providing a stabilising influence on neighbouring India and Nepal. That tranquil lifestyle now lies in tatters following China's invasion and brutal military occupation in 1950, which cost the lives of over one million Tibetans, nearly one sixth of the population.

The Flag of Tibet

Since then Tibetan women have been prime targets of human rights abuse. As documented by Asia Watch and Amnesty International, political prisoners suffer systematic torture and sexual violations. Detailed reports of forcible extraction of blood from female prisoners continue to emerge. Due to the courage and sacrifice of the Chinese human rights activist Dr Harry Wu, the West now knows about China's system of forced labour camps. Some of the most notorious of these are in Eastern Tibet and house countless numbers of women who are exploited as slave labour.

For women not involved in political activity, daily life offers little better. Unless they are able to speak the language of the occupying regime the chance of finding even the most menial employment is almost impossible. In order to receive grain women must carry a ration card bearing their name, date of birth and 'class'. The amount awarded is determined by a system of 'work points'. It is not therefore uncommon for women to be seen working in the fields from 6 am to 8 pm. Half of their yield is often demanded by China through various taxes such as the 'Love of the Nation Tax' or the 'Surplus Grain Tax'.

Healthcare facilities mostly benefit the forces of occupation and the ever-increasing numbers of Chinese 'settlers'. Tibetans must pay for services offered, and since this is beyond their means, the majority rely on 'barefoot doctors'. This poverty, which has blighted most families, is such that a once self-sufficient land is now one of the poorest regions on earth, with an annual per capita income of approximately £60. Not surprisingly, China always seeks to cover up the degree of social deprivation of women and children in Tibet. In an interview featured in a 1991 US television documentary, Mr Cheng Muhai, senior counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Washington, dumbfounded at the evidence before him, cut short the proceedings when shown footage highlighting the poverty in Tibet with the words: 'It's no good. I think we had better shut up.'

Tibetan Women Targeted by China's Population Programme

Tibetan women struggle against China's male-dominated state, characterise by deeply held racist convictions that operate a system of apartheid, reducing them to second-class citizenship in their own land. A commonly used Chinese term describing occupied people is shung-nu - 'barbarian slave'. It is within China's notorious population programme that women in Tibet face the most widespread human rights violations. Reports of this programme began emerging from Tibet in the early 1960s. It has resulted in unimaginable suffering for women across Tibet and China. Denied freedom of choice or control over their own bodies, women are forced, through a series of financial penalties, intimidation and other oppressive measures, to submit to population control.

The Flag of China

One account documented a former health worker from Eastern Tibet. In 1988 she became pregnant for the second time. Resisting initial pressures from family planning officials to have an abortion, she was fined 1500 Yuan (an enormous amount of money for most Tibetans). On hearing of her pregnancy, a Chinese doctor at the hospital in which she worked, pressurised her by saying: "If you insist on having the child, the financial punishment is a small matter compared with the political crime you are committing. From now on, you will only get 30 per cent of your salary. Your salary will never increase. Your child will not have the right to claim his ration card and will not be admitted to school."

Some four months into the pregnancy she collapsed under incessant pressure and submitted to 'menstrual termination of pregnancy (MTP)'. She says about her operation: "The complications and pain I suffered in the course of this operation were so terrible that I can't talk about it. However, it was nothing compared to what women suffer when they are operated on during their sixth and seventh months of pregnancy, which happens quite often at this hospital. In such cases, 0.2 ml of a solution called le xun nur is injected into the foetal bag by using a 12-inch syringe. The foetus loses its blood and stops breathing. About 72 hours later the dead foetus is delivered. I know at least twelve women who underwent such operations."

As she recalled, the operation left serious emotional and physical damage. "My menstrual flow is erratic. I have constant pain in my back and intestines. My health is such that I am ignorant if I shall ever be a mother again."

There are also numerous detailed accounts of physical force being used against women who are dragged from their homes and beaten in preparation for 'birth control operations'. A disturbing account, 'China's wanted children' (Yin, 1991) was compiled by Liu Yin, a Chinese who was allowed to accompany a birth control 'task force'. Liu Yin's report documents a raid on a village in which houses are stormed and women carried out in blankets to be taken for sterilisations and abortions. Liu Yin comments on conditions at the temporary clinic: "I could not believe what I saw. Hundreds of women, some more than six months pregnant, were packed into dark corridors and makeshift tents, waiting to be operated on." She describes toilets filled with blood-soaked toilet paper and waste bins full of aborted babies.

In a report presented to the United States Congressional Delegation, two Buddhist monks from Amdo (Eastern Tibet) gave a harrowing account of a mobile birth control team who arrived in their village during the autumn of 1987. They reported that all women in the area were ordered to have sterilisations and abortions and those who resisted were taken by force. According to the monks, all women of childbearing age were sterilised, and 30 to 40 women a day were operated on. When they finished, team members moved on to the next village. The monks described women crying as they awaited their turn for the operation, heard their screams and watched a growing pile of foetuses outside the tent (Testimony, 20 October 1988, cited in Moss, 1992).

It is such atrocities that have gained the attention of human rights groups such as Independent Tibet Network (formerly Campaign Free Tibet) and Optimus. More recently, Amnesty International has condemned the human rights abuse within China's population policies and has recommended that China "ensure that women are not detained, restricted or otherwise physically coerced in order to force them to have abortions or to be sterilised" (Al Index, 1995).

It is not only Tibetans who have seen women taken by force. Valda Harding, an English nurse, describes how, during a visit to Tibet in 1987, she witnessed Tibetan women caged like animals in wicker baskets in the back of a truck. When she enquired what their crime was, she was informed they were "being taken away because they were having too many children". She recalls having the impression that "it sounds strange, but in Tibet you get used to seeing people kicked, beaten and abused" (Tibetan Bulletin, September-October 1991).

Recent television documentaries have highlighted the human rights violations caused by China's population policies. Terrified at the brutal fate ahead of her, Bai was escorted to the local family planning clinic. Strapped onto a medical table, she was yet another 'volunteer' in China's birth control programme. In pain and crying for an anaesthetic, Bai was ordered by the surgeon to "put up with it". Immediately after the operation, traumatised, and in obvious agony, she was left unattended in a grimy dormitory. These harrowing scenes were documented in the film Women of the Yellow Earth (Bulmer, 1994) which revealed the coercive nature of China's population programme. But these images were eclipsed by those of the documentaries The Dying Rooms (Woods and Blewitt, 1995) and Return to the Dying Rooms (Woods and Blewitt, 1996). Both films recorded the inhuman treatment of baby girls left to die in China's state orphanages as a result of China's one-child policy and Chinese traditional preference for boys. The misery and suffering recorded in the films resulted in public outrage in Europe and the US and an intense public debate in the British national media.

In the drive to implement China's population programme, such gross violations have the approval and support of the Chinese government who urge regional and local family planning officers to meet birth control quotas. In 1981 Deng Xiaoping advised family planning officers: "In order to control the population use whatever means you must, but do it" (China's Spring Digest, 1987). In 1992 Cheng Bangzhu, Deputy Governor of Hunan province, ordered birth control teams: "In the autumn family planning drive, urban and rural areas must closely co-operate with one another, and must comb every household for unscheduled pregnancies, for which remedial measures should be taken" (Human Peoples Broadcasting Station, 14 September 1992).

Eugenics Revisited

The scale of human rights violations and the suffering of Tibetan and Chinese women is staggering; Dr Jonathan Aird, former senior China specialist at the US Bureau of the Census, estimated that between 1971 and 1985 alone there have been some 100 million coercive 'birth control operations', involving forced sterilisations and abortions (Aird, 1992). For Tibetans these population policies not only violate human rights principles, but form a dangerous and potentially disastrous assault upon an already severely diminished Tibetan population. Chinese population control abuses are now widely recognised, yet some demographers, presumably keen to maintain career links and/or research opportunities with China, choose to ignore the evidence of such violations. In Tibet and China, however, this is exactly what is happening, as the United Nations, governments, Britain's Department for International Development and multilateral population agencies ignore the wealth of evidence of these abuses, muttering absurd arguments about China having a potential for change. This reasoning could equally have been applied to Nazi SS units which forcibly sterilised countless numbers of 'racially inferior' women across Europe. Those who defend China's population control programmes are asking the world to accept something just as controversial and distasteful, to say nothing about the atrocities, the traumas, the terror and devastation inflicted upon women simply because 'there is potential for improvement'.

There are several important considerations which must be taken into account when examining Chinese population control programmes in Tibet. It must be remembered that these programmes are part of a system of oppression forced upon a subject people of an independent nation under illegal occupation. It is a policy imposed by a colonial power through the act of military occupation. The resulting birth control programme has had a devastating impact on the Tibetan population, which, it is widely agreed, was around six million before China's invasion in 1950. Since then, some 1.2 million Tibetans are thought to have perished through famine, disease, and in the 'Twenty Year War' of resistance (1954-74). A serious population low must thus have occurred in the 1960s, which meant that China forced its population programme upon an already dangerously reduced population level.
A woman campaigning for women's freedom to bear children

It is significant that the population of Tibet makes up less than 1 per cent of China's population. According to Chinese figures, Tibetans from the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (a truncated region forming a third of Tibet proper) are just 0.2 per cent of China's total population. It has been calculated that if the Tibetan population experiences an annual increase of 2.1 per cent (equivalent to the replacement rate), it would add just 0.3 per cent of China's yearly population growth. Tibet has a land surface comparable in size to that of Western Europe, yet its population is less than that of Greater London. The Tibetan population has coexisted in balance with a resource-rich environment for several millennia. Taken together these facts make it impossible to accept arguments for any form of population control in Tibet.

Apart from employing dubious economic arguments to justify its population control programme, such as linking apparent rises in living standards for Tibetans with birth control policies, China also stresses the importance of 'increasing the quality of the nation'. Since the Nazi obsession with eugenics, no state has attached so much importance to what has been comprehensively described as 'the management and breeding for the purpose of improving stock' (Issues in Reproductive and Genetic Engineering, 1991).

Socially and biologically based eugenics has played a major role in China's justification of its population programme, particularly since the official introduction of the one child policy in 1979. In 1989, China's Gansu province (which contains large parts of annexed Tibetan territory) issued a mandatory sterilisation regulation 'prohibiting reproduction by the mentally retarded'. China's definition of what constitutes retardation includes having an IQ of less than 49, or 'handicaps' in 'language, memory, orientation and thinking'. One is reminded of those certified as insane by the Nazi Criminal Biology Institute and sterilised on the basis that they held thoughts not in accord with Nazi ideology. In 1991, similar eugenics laws were adopted by at least five other provinces and Madame Peng Peyin, State Family Planning Minister, defended the forced sterilisation of all mentally handicapped people, whether or not their problem was hereditary (Kristof, 1991).

For Tibetans these laws are a chilling addition to the systematic assault upon their population. According to Xinhua (China's News Agency), there are some 100,000 'handicapped' people in Tibet who, under China's eugenics laws, are considered 'undesirable'. As with most Chinese euphemisms, the term 'handicapped' could mean many things and the interpretation is often left to family planning officials at regional and local levels. As a result, Tibetan women find themselves at the mercy of politically motivated decisions that result in mass sterilisation campaigns. Gansu Radio reported on 7 May 1990 that some 65,000 women and men have been sterilised in just two months (Moss, 1992). Deng Bihai, in an article for China's Population News (1989), trumpeted in overtly racist tones the superiority of Han Chinese over 'minority nationalities'. The article claimed that people such as the Tibetans are commonly "mentally retarded, short of stature, dwarves or insane" and on this basis, Deng urged no relaxation in the birth control programme.

Conclusion: Cultural Genocide

The recognition of the abuse involved in China's population programme, and its racist and eugenic rationale, together with the fact that it has been forced upon a population already blighted by the loss of a million people, make it difficult to escape the conclusion that China is engaged in cultural genocide in Tibet. This genocidal programme is waged on Tibetan women's bodies. It is impossible to see any other reason for population control other than the aim of reducing the Tibetan population to a dangerously low level. With the added pressure of China's population transfer strategy, which means that Tibetans are becoming a minority in many areas of Tibet, Tibet faces the gravest crisis of survival in its history. In order to achieve this 'Final Solution', the rights of Tibetan women have been abolished by central mandate and they have no choice but to accept a position which renders them servile to the Chinese state. As one Buddhist nun has commented: "In Tibet we have no rights, not even over our bodies."