Despite efforts by Beijing to pass quietly through the June anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the state of human rights in China became a scorching subject on the internet as photos of an exhausted woman and her aborted baby went viral as did suspicions about the recent alleged suicide by hanging of a noted Tiananmen activist.
Photos of the brutalized woman, forced by China’s family planning officials at 7 months gestation to undergo a chemical abortion, and the aborted child laid at her side went viral in early June just weeks after Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng was allowed to leave China for safe harbor in the United States on May 19. Chen had endured years of imprisonment and harassment from Chinese authorities after exposing the brutality of forced abortions just behind China’s One Child, One Family policy.
The victim in this most recent case, from Shanxi Province, Feng Jianmei, was allegedly beaten and abducted by a group of family planning officials while her husband, Deng Jiyuan, was out working. The family could not produce the RMB 40,000 (about $6,400) in fines demanded because of an unauthorized second pregnancy. When they did not receive the money, officials chemically aborted Feng’s child at seven months, laying the body of her aborted baby next to her in the bed.
When family members posted a photo of the mother and child, it quickly produced outrage across China; the topic “induced abortion of seven-month pregnancy” rapidly became the most searched term on Chinese servers. Hundreds of thousands viewed the images and local municipal authorities were forced to acknowledge the forced abortion, attempting to fix blame on an overzealous family planning committee.
The forced abortion was even condemned by official publications such as Beijing’s Global Times. The paper quoted a Beijing-based lawyer Zhang Kai who called the treatment flatly “inhumane” and “an infringement of human rights.” Zhang said that he has received letters from some 20 women forced to have abortions nationwide since he wrote about Feng's experience on his microblog.
Human rights groups in China and around the world are also questioning the death of a top union leader and dissident who officials say hanged himself in a hospital on June 13. The Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong joined other rights groups to protest the death of Li Wangyang in front of the Liaison Office of the central government in Hong Kong.
Li, who was jailed for 21 years for his involvement in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, was found hanged in his hospital room with a cloth tied around his neck and attached to a window. Chinese officials said that he had killed himself. But his supporters say he was in such poor health, suffering with many illnesses brought about through years of brutal treatment in prison, that he would not have had the strength to hang himself. They say he also had no suicidal leanings. Li had been released from prison last May and transferred to the hospital in Shaoyang city in Hunan province, where he remained under police surveillance. The Hong Kong-based Center for Human Rights and Democracy in China called the death “unusual” in a statement.
“We cannot rule out that security guards monitoring him tortured him to death and faked a suicide,” the statement said.
Cable TV news reporter Lam Kin-shing interviewed Li in hospital on June 2 as part of a report on this year’s commemoration of the Tiananmen Square protests.
He told local media he was concerned that the interview, in which Li promised to continue his work towards democratic reforms in the country even if it endangered his life, could have led to his death.
“That was an assassination,” Lam said.
Family members said it was impossible that Li killed himself.
His sister reported that he had never expressed any desire to kill himself even after more than two decades in prison and suffering severe illness. Less than a week ago, he had told a Hong Kong TV station that he would continue to fight for "a multi-party and democratic society."