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Uyghur Woman Released, Without Forced Abortion

November 21, 2008

Radio Free Asia
November 18, 2008

HONG KONG -- An ethnic Uyghur woman in China's northwestern Xinjiang
region who was scheduled to undergo a second-term abortion against
her will -- and whose case drew international attention -- has been
released to her family and allowed to continue her pregnancy, Radio
Free Asia (RFA) reports.

"I am all right and I am at home now," Arzigul Tursun told RFA's
Uyghur service, shortly after she was released from the Women and
Children's Welfare Hospital in Ili prefecture.

"I brought her home," the local population-control  committee chief,
Rashide, said. "She wasn't in good enough health to have an abortion."

Tursun's case prompted calls to the Chinese authorities from two
members of the U.S. Congress and from the U.S. ambassador in Beijing
for a planned abortion of her pregnancy to be scrapped.

Police tracked down Arzigul Tursun, six months pregnant with her
third child, at a relative's home Monday afternoon after she fled
Gulja's municipal Water Gate Hospital, relatives said.

China's one-child-per-family policy applies mainly to majority Han
Chinese and 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 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,
in the remote northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

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.

Police operation

On Monday, Tursun's father, Hasan Tursunjan, said, between 20 and 30
police cars came to the family home to search for his daughter and
take her to the hospital to terminate her pregnancy.

"It was a big operation... and they treated us very rudely," he said.
"They confiscated all out cellphones, but I hid one. One of them was
pushing my forehead and saying, 'You have connections with the
separatists in America -- see if they can come and rescue your
daughter or not.'"

"I was very upset of what he did to me and said, 'I believe they will
rescue us, if not today then tomorrow, and if not tomorrow then the
day after tomorrow -- they will eventually rescue us,'" Tursunjan said.

"My youngest son was upset and rushed to us and shouted... 'Don't
touch my father!' The [official] immediately called a few police over
and they arrested him. They took him away with a car."

High-level intervention

Two members of the U.S. Congress called on authorities in China to
release Tursun and cancel the planned abortion

Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania on Monday urged officials to
"immediately intervene in order to stop any forced abortion from
taking place." On Friday, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, ranking
member on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, called
forced abortions a "barbaric practice" and made a personal appeal to
Chinese ambassador Zhou Wenzhong.

On Monday, Smith said he had spoken with Zhou, who said he would look
into the case. Smith also contacted U.S. Ambassador to China Clark
Randt and asked him to intervene. Randt spoke with the executive vice
foreign minister Wang Guanya, Smith's office said.

Detailed policy

According to China's 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.

Tense relations

Relations between Chinese authorities and the predominantly Muslim
Uyghur population have a long and tense history, with many Uyghurs
objecting in particular to the mass immigration of Han Chinese to the
region and to Beijing's population-control policy.

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
calls 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. Uyghur service
director: Dolkun Kamberi. Translated by Alim Abdulkerim. Written and
produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.
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