BEIJING – China on Monday denied claims by U.S. officials and a human rights group that a Shanghai woman is undergoing reeducation through labor for her campaign to abolish the country's one-child policy (search).
The woman, Mao Hengfeng (search), is in a labor camp not for her opinions about China's family planning policy, but because she disturbed the peace, the government said.
U.S. State Department officials and the New York-based Human Rights in China (search) group have said Mao was fired from her job in the late 1980s after a second pregnancy, which violated family planning laws.
They said because of her campaign to abolish regulations that limit most urban couples to only one child, she has been subjected to forced incarceration in psychiatric hospitals, torture and reeducation through labor.
In a rare statement faxed to The Associated Press, the State Council, China's Cabinet, said Mao was fired in 1989 because she missed 16 days of work, not because she was pregnant with her third child at the time.
Mao's first pregnancy resulted in twin boys. In 1989, she had a daughter.
She also protested at several judicial offices in May and October 2003, which disturbed the peace, it said.
"Mao was sentenced to reeducation because she disturbed the public order," said the statement, which was unsolicited. "It had nothing to do with the family planning policy."
The statement did not address the claims of forced incarceration in psychiatric hospitals or torture.
Last week, the group Human Rights in China said Mao's 1 ½ year sentence had been extended by another three months.
U.S. State Department officials cited Mao's case in testimony before Congress last month, saying that China's family planning policies were harshly coercive.
In the 1970s, China launched a one-child policy to slow the growth of its population, which officially hit 1.3 billion last week. Couples who have unsanctioned children have been subject to heavy fines, job losses and forced sterilization.
There have been some modifications, allowing second children for ethnic populations and rural families whose first child is a girl.
In 2002, under strong U.S. pressure, Beijing enacted a national law aimed at standardizing birth-control policies and reducing corruption and coercion.
Last Thursday, China heralded the birth of its 1.3 billionth citizen, saying there would be at least 200 million more Chinese citizens today if it weren't for its family planning policy.
The child, Zhang Yichi, was born to a huge media blitz in a Beijing hospital and his family has been approached by many companies seeking to use his image in their ads, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing the Beijing Daily Messenger.
But they have turned down a number of lucrative advertising contracts for diapers and milk formula.
"It's lucky to be China's 1.3 billionth citizen," the boy's father, Zhang Tong, was quoted as saying.
"But it's unnecessary to act as image representative for so many products, since Zhang Yichi is too young and too many commercial activities will have a negative impact on the boy's healthy growth."