CNA Staff, Jul 2, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden condemned China’s forced sterilizations of Uyghur women on Wednesday—nine years after he told a Chinese audience that he was “not second-guessing” the country’s one-child policy.
In a campaign press release on Wednesday, Biden decried the “unconscionable crimes against Chinese women” revealed in an Associated Press report on Monday. The AP investigation found a systematic campaign by the Chinese Communist Party of pregnancy checks and forced abortions, sterilizations, and implantations of IUDs on Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.
In 2011, however, Biden himself was criticized by pro-lifers for telling a Chinese audience that he understood China’s one-child policy.
Speaking at Chengdu’s Sichuan University in August of 2011, then-Vice President Biden brought up the demographic challenges in the U.S. of having fewer working-age citizens to support a greater number of retirees.
“But as I was talking to some of your leaders, you share a similar concern here in China,” Biden said.
“Your policy has been one which I fully understand – I’m not second-guessing – of one child per family,” he said. “The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.”
Human rights organizations have repeatedly reported that the one-child policy—since updated to become a two-child-per-family limit—is enforced by the Communist government through forced abortions and sterilizations of women who do not comply.
The Trump administration, beginning in 2017, stopped funding the UN’s population fund (UNFPA) because of its partnership with the Chinese government. The State Department said that “China’s family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization.”
The U.S. had also pulled funding of the UNFPA in 2002 over China’s implementation of the one-child policy, but the Obama administration restored funding in 2009.
Biden, in 2011, was criticized by some Republicans for his deference to the policy. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House pro-life caucus, called the policy “cruel, inhumane and the most egregious systematic attack on women ever.”
In January, 2020, Smith warned that “the pervasive use of forced abortion and forced sterilization” was continuing in China, especially “against ethnic minorities, especially the Uyghurs, as a way of population control and as another manifestation of genocide.”
Monday’s AP report showed that many Uyghurs are sentenced to detention camps in the region for having too many children. Parents of three or more children are fined, jailed, or separated from their families, with police searching homes for hidden children.
On Thursday, Biden cited the AP report on the forced abortion and sterilization in Xinjiang to attack President Trump’s policy on China’s human rights abuses as “indefensible, marked by desperation for a failing trade deal.”
Trump has been criticized for not issuing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the human rights crisis in Xinjiang, where reports have shown that more than 1,300 detention camps have been set up for Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. Survivors of the camps have reported undergoing indoctrination, forced labor, torture, and other abuses.
Members of the Uyghur diaspora and survivors of the camps have said that Uyghurs and other minorities have been sterilized or forced to practice birth control. Two survivors of the camps, Mihrigul Tursun and Gulbahar Jelilova, have said they were administered or witnessed other women being administered unknown substances in the camps that stopped their menstruation.
The AP reported on Monday that the abuses were “far more widespread and systematic than previously known.” The birth rate in the region plunged by 24% in 2019, the AP said, and in certain parts of the province birth rates had fallen by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018.
Although Trump on June 17 signed legislation to impose sanctions on Chinese officials culpable in abuses committed against Uyghurs, sanctions have not been issued yet. Trump told Axios on June 19 that he hadn’t yet done so because “we were in the middle of a major trade deal.”
Nury Turkel, a Uyghur human rights advocates who is a commissioner at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told CNA that “there is no excuse for delaying action against China.”