05/24/2007, 00.00
CHINA

In Guangxi anyone opposing forced abortions to be punished

Official sources admit protests only yesterday, but claim they were caused by the occasional high fine and reject claims about coercive measures against women and families. The 28 people arrested for allegedly instigating the protest action will be punished. Many residents however insist that forced abortions did take place, that police did ransack private homes and that five people died during the incidents.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Police arrested 28 people out of the thousands who took to the streets and stormed public buildings in seven towns in Bobai County (Guangxi) to protest against birth control measures. Official sources denied reports that the authorities abused protesters and did not say if and how local complaints will be addressed.

The Xinhua news agency reported that the 28 people accused were arrested for “networking, persuading and being involved in damaging properties,” saying that they would be punished for the “obvious” violation of the law.

In its report Xinhua noted that a week ago 300 residents surrounded the township government building in Dungu, after which riots erupted in six other towns over the following two days with thousands of people surrounding government buildings and storming their offices.

The report also indicated that some 4,200 officials were involved in quelling the disturbances and reducing the tension in 28 towns.

For County Chief Huang Shaoming, birth control officials might have “stirred discontent” with their “problematic” ways of implementing birth-control measures, but as far he was concerned the unrest was due to “backward ideas about birth control and the rule of law.”

Other officials also agree that excessive fines might have triggered the protests, but denied allegations regarding forced abortions and violence.

Still, many eyewitnesses said that in Shabi village and in other towns police ransacked homes in order to force people to pay the fines. They were also adamant that forced abortions did take place.

Reached by phone, many of them said that tens of thousands of people took part in the protest action and that as many as five people were killed, including officials involved in family planning work.

In March local government leaders in Bobai demanded family planning officials strictly enforce the one-child policy on penalty of jeopardising their careers.

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