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Uyghur Woman Faces Imminent Forced Abortion

November 15, 2008

Radio Free Asia
November  14, 2008

HONG KONG -- Arzigul Tursun, six months pregnant with her third
child, is under guard in a hospital in China's northwestern Xinjiang
region, scheduled to undergo an abortion against her will because
authorities say she is entitled to only two children.

As a member of the predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority, Tursun is
legally permitted to more than the one child allowed most people in
China. But when word of a third pregnancy reached local authorities,
they coerced her into the hospital for an abortion, her husband told
Radio Free Asia (RFA).

"Arzigul is being kept in bed number three," a nurse in the women's
section at Gulja's Water Gate Hospital said in a telephone interview
with RFA's Uyghur service.

"We will give an injection first. Then she will experience abdominal
pain, and the baby will come out by itself. But we haven't given her
any injection yet—we are waiting for instructions from the doctors."

China's one-child-per-family policy applies mainly to majority Han
Chinese but allows ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs, to have
additional children, with peasants permitted to have three children
and city-dwellers two.

But while Tursun is a peasant, her husband, Nurmemet Tohtasin, is
from the city of Gulja [in Chinese, Yining] so their status is
unclear. The couple live with their two children in Bulaq village,
Dadamtu township, in Gulja.

Their experience sheds rare light on how China's one-child policy is
enforced in remote parts of the country, through fines, financial
incentives, and heavy-handed coercion by zealous local officials
eager to meet population targets set by cadres higher up.

"My wife is being kept in the hospital--village officials are
guarding her," Tohtisin said before authorities directed him late
Thursday to switch off his mobile phone.

"When she fled the village to avoid abortion, police and Party
officials, and the family planning committee officials, all came and
interrogated us," he said. "The deputy chief of the village, a
Chinese woman named Wei Yenhua, threatened that if we didn't find
Arzigul and bring her to the village, she would confiscate our land
and all our property."

Steep fines

On Nov. 11, Tohtisin said, an official named Rashide from the village
family planning committee came to their home and escorted the couple,
along with Arzigul's father, to the Gulja's municipal Water Gate Hospital.

There, Tohtisin said, he was pressured into signing forms authorizing
an abortion.

"The abortion should be carried out because according to the family
planning policy of China, you're not allowed to have more children
than the government has regulated. Therefore she should undergo an
abortion. This is their third child. She is 6-1/2 months pregnant
now," Rashide said.

"If her health is normal, then the abortion will definitely take
place. Otherwise they have to pay a fine in the amount of 45,000 yuan
(U.S. $6,590)—that's a lot of money, and they won't have it," she added.

Tursun's abortion was originally scheduled for Thursday, but hospital
authorities said they had postponed it until Monday after numerous
calls from local and exiled Uyghurs.

Officials then told her husband to switch off his mobile phone and
stop making calls.

Carrots and sticks

According to the official news agency, Xinhua, Uyghurs in the
countryside are permitted three children while city-dwellers may have
two. Under "special circumstances," rural families are permitted one
more child, although what constitutes special circumstances was
unclear. The government also uses financial incentives and
disincentives to keep the birthrate low.

Couples can also pay steep fines to have more children, although the
fines are well beyond most people's means.

The official Web site China Xinjiang Web reports that in Kashgar,
Hotan, and Kizilsu [in Chinese, Kezilesu], areas populated almost
entirely by Uyghurs, women over 49 with only one child are entitled
to a one-time payment of 3,000 yuan (U.S. $440), with the couple
receiving 600 yuan (U.S. $88) yearly afterward.

China's official Tianshan Net reported that population control
policies in Xinjiang have prevented the births of some 3.7 million
people over the last 30 years.

And according to China Xinjiang Web on Sept. 26, 2008, the government
will spend 25.6 million yuan (U.S. $3.7 million) this year rewarding
families who have followed the population policy.

The one-child policy is enforced more strictly in cities, but
penalties for exceeding a family's quota can be severe, including job
losses, demotions, or expulsion from the Party, experts say.

Officials at all levels are subject to rewards or penalties based on
whether they meet population targets set by their administrative
region.Citizens are legally entitled to sue officials who they
believe have overstepped their authority in enforcing the policy.

Congressional appeal

In Washington, Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey in the
U.S. House of Representatives, appealed on Thursday to Chinese
Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong to intervene.

"Human rights groups and the U.S. government will be watching very
carefully to see what happens to Arzigul and her family," Smith,
senior member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China,
said in a statement. "I appeal to the Chinese government not to
forcibly abort Arzigul."

Tense relations

Relations between Chinese authorities and the Uyghur population have
a long and tense history.

Uyghurs formed two short-lived East Turkestan republics in the 1930s
and 40s during the Chinese civil war and the Japanese invasion. But
China subsequently took control of the region, and Beijing has in
recent years launched a campaign against Uyghur separatism, which it
regards as a war on Islamic terrorism.

It has also accused "hostile forces" in the West of fomenting unrest
in the strategically important and resource-rich region, which
borders several countries in Central Asia.

Original reporting in Uyghur by Shohret Hoshur. Translated by Omer
Kanat. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Written and produced
for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han. Edited by Joshua Lipes.

Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting and
publishing online news, information, and commentary in nine East
Asian languages to listeners who do not have access to full and free
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