Sunday, April 21, 2013

Broken Fact: Fu Ping's Eyewitness of Infanticide

The Original Story:
On Page 254 of Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping described what she witnessed during her infanticide research:
What I discovered was shocking. Everywhere in rural areas, infant girls were being killed. In spite of decades of Communist propaganda about the equality of the sexes, ours remained a patriarchal society. Out of desperation, some parents chose unborn sons over born daughters. I witnessed the horrifying consequences with my own eyes: female infants drowned in rivers and lakes, umbilical wounds still fresh; baby girls flushed down the sewage system or suffocated in plastic bags and tossed into garbage bins.
She repeated the same assertion in several of her media interviews. For example, in an interview with Leopard Lopate on January 14, 2013, she stated:
Yeah, I was doing my graduation thesis research and I heard that there were baby girls being killed in the countryside due to one-child policy. I went to research that and I saw hundreds of baby girls being killed right in front of my eyes. I saw girls being tossed into the river when their embryonic cord still fresh.
The next day, she repeated the same tale to Sir Harold Evans of Reuters, which cleared shocked the later in the video:
Evans: You saw babies are being killed?
Fu: I saw it with my bare eyes. I saw babies are being tossed into river with their embryonic cords still fresh. I saw babies being put in the plastic bags and tossed into garbage. 
The Changing Story:
When her tale was questioned, Fu Ping issued a semi-clarification to the Guardian on March 12:
The entrepreneur claims she was ordered to leave China after exposing female infanticide in the early 80s, writing that in a few months of research she "witnessed with her own eyes" drowned and suffocated female infants. Last month, she told a radio station she watched "hundreds of baby girls being killed in front of my eyes. I saw girls being tossed into the river."  
Therese Hesketh of University College London, an expert on population controls in China, said: "I have never heard stories of this kind. Infanticide did of course occur, but was not commonplace … It certainly was not done in public as even at that time to be caught meant a possible murder charge."  
Fu told the Guardian that she mis-spoke in the live radio interview and should have said "my research was based on hundreds of cases, and I saw baby girls killed right in front of my eyes".  
She added: "If you went to the countryside and to the family planning unit it was going on all the way down the line in every village and every school. Very few people were allowed to go to the poor areas. These kinds of things happened, and China doesn't want people to know it happened." 

But then on March 23, she spoke again at the Downtown Speaker Series at Last Vegas:
When I went to the countryside to look at that, I saw baby girls are being killed and I saw babies being thrown into river when their embryological cords are still fresh. I saw baby girls being suffocation in pillow cases and being thrown into garbage dumpsters. What I saw broke my heart. 
The Debunking:
First of all, we need to clarify two related but separate issues: forced abortion and infanticide. Forced abortion was applied as a means to enforce the one-child policy in which any "unauthorized" pregnancy, once discovered, was forcefully terminated by the authorities. This policy was carried out openly and widely. There had been many unborn babies being aborted this way, boys or girls.

Infanticide, however, was an entirely different matter. Once a child was born, even "illegally" under the one-child policy, the only punishment would be a heavy financial fine to the parents. There had never been a policy of killing babies after they had been born.

As Therese Hesketh stated in the Guardian article, infanticide did occur in China, when some parents sacrificed their first-born girls after birth in order to preserve their quota to have a boy under the one-child policy. It was not commonplace and it was, is, and always has been a crime of murder, even in China in those days.

Since it is a criminal act, when infanticide did occur, it was done by the parents or other family members in secret. It would be almost impossible for Fu Ping, an outsider from a big city, to witness any of such killings, not to mention "hundreds of them" " in front of my own eyes."

The corpses of infanticide would also have been carefully disposed to hide the evidence of murder. They would not have been tossed into rivers, flushed into sewage (there was no such thing in rural China) or thrown into trash in plastic bags (plastic bags were extremely rare luxury items in rural China at that time).

Fu Ping may have seen some of the remains of forced abortions when hospitals or clinics did not dispose them properly, but not infanticide. If she did, she had an obligation to inform law enforcement for the crimes she witnessed.

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