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Human rights activists and U.S. lawmakers are urging President Obama to raise China's one-child policy during his coming visit to Beijing. A congressional human rights panel heard wrenching testimony on Tuesday from a Chinese woman who was forced to abort her baby, painting a horrifying picture of one face of the human rights situation in China.
She entered the hearing room wearing a black cloth over her head, and sat behind a wooden screen to avoid being photographed or recorded by television cameras.
Using the name Wujian for the hearing, she described what happened in 2004 after she became pregnant without a birth permit under China's one-child policy.
She went into hiding, and some months later was picked up by Chinese family planning officials, this after her father was detained and beaten by authorities attempting to locate her.
Wujian then described, to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, her horror as doctors performing the abortion first killed the baby with injections, and then cut it out of her womb.
"In the end of surgery one nurse showed me a part of the bloody foot, with tweezers, through my tears and the picture of the bloody foot [was] engraved in my eyes and into my heart. I clearly saw five small bloody toes," said Wujian. "The body of the baby was thrown into a trashcan."
Implemented three decades ago as a way to hold down China's exploding population growth, China's one-child policy is an issue that drives members of Congress, human rights groups, and other critics of Chinese policies to anger.
Enforced by thousands of officials in China's provinces, tens of thousands of women are estimated to have faced coercive abortions, often late in their pregnancies, as well as forced sterilizations.
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Harry Wu is a well-known activist for human rights in China. "Every village, every district of the city, they have the birth control policy," he said. "So far, we understand [there are] around 400,000 workers working in the country."
Reggie Littlejohn, who heads Women's Rights Without Frontiers, an organization dedicated to combating forced abortion and sexual slavery in China, says Beijing would like the world to believe that it is relaxing the policy.
On the contrary, she says, authorities have made clear they intend to enforce it for decades to come, which means ongoing state-sanctioned violence against women and girls.
"When we say forced abortion, what do we mean? We mean women being literally dragged out of their homes in the middle of the night, or even in the middle of the day as in the case of this young woman, strapped down to tables, pleading and crying and being forced to abort their babies," said Littlejohn.
Littlejohn, and other witnesses want President Obama to raise the forced abortion issue when he meets with Chinese leaders.
Republican Representative Chris Smith says any weakening of America's voice where this and other human rights issues are concerned can only make the situation worse.
"I'm not saying that diplomacy doesn't have a very valid place but when we whisper and put it on page four of a list of talking points, that demotion in terms of priority is felt by the receiver, in this case the Chinese dictatorship, and then they trivialize it say it doesn't matter," he said.
Leonard Leo, who heads the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, says President Obama should use the opportunity to make clear to that until China eliminates policies that repress human rights, there will not be as productive a relationship as there could be on other bilateral issues.
"We all know there has been some ambiguity regarding the Obama administration's treatment of human rights in the broader agenda with China," he said. "This trip by the president is an opportunity to set that record straight."
In a letter to President Obama in advance of his departure for Asia, the Commission on International Religious Freedom urges him to make a strong public statement about the importance of human rights to the future of U.S.-China relations, and also urges him to meet with human rights lawyers and defenders.
Jiang Tianyong is a human rights lawyer with the Beijing Global Law Firm, who has defended dissidents and taken cases involving the one-child policy and along with other lawyers faced intimidation by authorities.
He says the one-child policy has also subjected family members of women who become pregnant to harassment, arrest and even torture.
Jiang says President Obama should elevate the issue when he visits Beijing. "Mr. Obama will be visiting China very soon, and we hope he will speak out for the victims in China," he said.
Rebiya Kadeer, activist for ethnic Uighurs in China's far northwestern autonomous Xinjiang province, who also testified to the panel, says her people are also hoping or an end to the one-child policy.
"The Chinese government must end its practice of forced abortion and sterilization among Uighur women and even men, and allow us to exercise our most basic rights, the right to bear children as we wish and free of state control, because we are less than 1 percent of China's total population," said Kadeer.
Kadeer also had some stinging criticism regarding the situation in Xinjiang, where authorities executed nine Uighurs in connection with riots in Urumqi earlier this year, saying the international community, including the United States, had been silent on the issue.
President Obama is scheduled to depart on his Asia trip on Thursday, and the White House says he will be raising human rights issues with China's President Hu Jintao.