Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

Considering China's One-Child Policy

If a one-child policy was the law in, say, Myanmar, a country ruled by dictatorship but not a major economic power like China, Scott Simon wonders if the United States and United Nations would call it an unfortunate policy — or a human rights crime.

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The hardest scenes to bear in the coverage of the recent Chinese earthquake have been the cries of parents whose child has died. And to know that they have lost the only child the Chinese government has permitted them to have. Having a second child in the family wouldn't lighten their grief, but having another child to love and care for usually forces parents to keep going despite their grief.

There are at least 20 million orphan children in China. People may know that my feelings may be personal. My wife and I have two daughters from China. Since the earthquake I've heard from people who suggest that these suffering families be allowed to adopt one of these orphan children. Millions of children who need love, there are thousands of families who have suffered a grave wound and crave the love of a child.

Why not bring them together? That suggestion isn't realistic as it is a very small number of children are made available for foreign adoption, even that number is dwindling. The Chinese government were to give families who have been prohibited from having a second child, a second child that another family was forced to surrender, it could set off a popular insurrection that so far craving for freedom of speech and democracy has not.

Few forces are as strong as a parent's for their child. The United Nations and U.S. sometimes question the morality of China's one-child policy, especially reports to forced sterilizations and abortions which the Chinese government denies. NPR's Louisa Lim did a stunning report last April from southwest China that documented how scores of women were given forced abortions or sterilizations. A woman named Wei Linrong who was seven months pregnant told her how Chinese officials took her by force to a hospital and aborted her pregnancy.

Ms. WEI LINRONG: (Through translator) Of course I was scared. The hospital was full of women who had been brought in forcibly. There wasn't a single spare bed. The family planning people said forced abortions and forced sterilizations were both being carried out. We saw women being pulled in one by one.

SIMON: Some Chinese were able to buy what amounts to a license to have a second child, but for most, the one-child rule isn't a law that's promoted with tax incentives, it's a prohibition to be enforced by a knife. There is much to admire in the openness of the Chinese government's response to the recent earthquake, but you have to wonder if its one-child policy was the law in say, Myanmar, a country ruled by dictatorship but not a major economic power. But the U.S. and U.N. call it an unfortunate policy that it is the right of Chinese rulers to make - or a human rights crime.

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Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small