Chinese Authorities Take Action against Illegal Sex-Selective Abortions

Dong Yang, ChinaChina announced the arrest of ten gang members guilty of providing sex-selective abortions. The One-Child policy in China has led to a preference for male children over females. This has contributed to the abortion, killing, abandonment and trafficking of female children.

The gang worked out of a clinic in Zhengzhou since 2010. Pregnant women would come from around the country to determine the sex of their unborn child and then abort that child if they chose not to keep it. In 2013, more than 1,000 women sought the clinic’s services.

Amartya Sen, professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University commented on the practice of sex-selective abortions, writing “since the 1980s, the wide use of new techniques such as ultrasound scans for determining the sex of foetuses has led to huge and growing numbers of selective abortions of female foetuses… Selective abortion of female foetuses – what can be called “natality discrimination” – is a kind of high-tech manifestation of preference for boys.”

Sex determination has been illegal in China since the late 1980s because it facilitates sex-selective abortions of female fetuses and contributes to the uneven gender ratio seen today in China. As of 2013, there were 33.8 million more men (697.2 million) than women (663.4 million) due to the continued preference for male children.

The One-Child policy combined with the preference families have for boy children has also contributed to human trafficking. Up to 70,000 children are abducted annually and sold for adoption to families interested in having a son. Due to the strict laws restricting families to only one child, many would rather purchase a son than risk a pregnancy that might result in a daughter. Trafficking also affects women who are scarce in the country and therefore in high demand by men looking for wives.

Birth limitation policies in China also result in millions of forced abortions and sterilizations by the state each year. According to the China Health Ministry, more than 336 million abortions have taken place since the One-Child policy was enacted in 1979. Under the law, it is illegal to get pregnant without a permit and to have a second child without permission. People with money can pay a fine, but most women are at risk of being forced to terminate their pregnancies.

Gong Qifeng, a 25 year old woman, described her experience of a forced abortion 2 years ago. She was taken to a hospital and held down while labor-inducing drugs were injected into her abdomen. After nearly 35 hours of excruciating pain, her 7 month old child was born dead. “It was the pain of my lifetime, worse than the pain of delivering a child. You cannot describe it. And it has become a mental pain. I feel like a walking corpse,” she stated. Following this experience, Gong Qifeng was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

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Corporal Punishment of Children Has Lasting Psychological Effects

The board of educationCorporal punishment in schools continues to be an accepted method of discipline in many countries around the world. In these regions, many argue that physical punishment is a normal, natural and harmless part of their culture; yet, human rights activists argue that the practice is damaging and must be abolished.  German researchers responded to debates on this issue by releasing a new study demonstrating the relationship between corporal punishment and long-term psychological effects, regardless of a child’s culture and background.

“Some people still believe, despite an overwhelming body of evidence, that corporal punishment in some cultures won’t result in as many negative effects. But, as this study shows, it’s difficult to find support for that argument” stated George Holden, professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University.

Previous research in Western societies demonstrated that children exposed to physical punishment develop emotional and behavioral problems. Led by Tobias Hecker, a psychologist at the University of Konstanz, researchers investigated whether Tanzanian children had the same experience. Although corporal punishment in schools is common and legal in Tanzania, the research demonstrated that it is linked to psychological problems in children who have been punished.

“Parents aim to educate children through corporal punishment, but instead of learning good social behaviours, the beatings often have the opposite effect…What people usually see after a spanking or beating is immediate compliance. But in the long-term, they are really instilling fear in the child,” explained Hecker.

Of the more than 400 primary school children interviewed, 95% had been physically punished by a teacher. Most (82%) were hit with objects that included sticks and belts, and many (66%) had been slapped, pinched, or punched. Almost 25% of children who received physical punishment were injured due to the severity with which they were disciplined. When evaluated for psychological consequences, more than 20% of these children demonstrated problems with aggression and more than 10% demonstrated a decrease in empathy.

Corporal punishment in schools has been outlawed in 34 countries, but it continues to be an accepted practice for disciplining children in many countries. Even in the United States, more than twenty states legally allow spanking by teachers.

In many regions of the world, students are slapped or caned for disobedience and disrespect. One example of this practice comes from China where a school principal witnessed a student disrupting a class and proceeded to cane both his hands and those of four of his innocent friends.

Another example from India demonstrates the psychological damage that can result from school discipline. In a Mumbai school, a 12 year old girl was disciplined by a male teacher who had her remove her skirt in front of an entire class so that he could hit her on the buttocks. Following the humiliating incident, the girl was unwilling to return to school, lost a full year of education, and continued to act fearful and introverted.

Indian psychiatrists who have treated child victims of corporal punishment agree that these children suffer from long-term psychological effects including anxiety disorders, feelings of inferiority, sleep disorders and depression that affect their success and development.

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Shanghai Students Top PISA Global Education Rankings

学周希望小学学生For the second time, students in Shanghai, China, have come out on top of the global Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test rankings. The newly released PISA results stem from the 2012 exams, which tested the mathematics, reading, and science skills of more than half a million secondary school students from 65 countries.

The PISA test is conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In addition to Shanghai’s top ranking, this year’s tests showed East Asian economies in general (including Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea) outperforming the rest of the world.

The city of Shanghai was ranked separately from the rest of China, and was the only Chinese city to be ranked, as not enough data from other regions of China was available. Some educational experts have pointed out that the education system in Shanghai is very different from the rest of the country, and is far more effective.

Shanghai’s schools are said to be better funded and their teachers better paid than in other parts of China. Kong Linghuai, a professor and expert on Shanghai’s education system, says that the city’s success can be attributed to a mixture of “traditional elements and modern elements.”

Traditional elements, according to Kong, include a high cultural value placed on education, while modern elements include an evolving curriculum, a focus on improving underachieving schools, and an emphasis on teacher training.

Shanghai’s performance on this year’s PISA tests has gone a long way toward ending stereotypes about education in China. The belief that the Chinese school system is based on rote memorization is becoming outdated, as the government has been making consistent efforts to shift away from this paradigm.

According to the PISA report, this year’s findings reflect the fact that students excel when they have a measure of control over their own learning.

“Practice and hard work go a long way towards developing each student’s potential,” noted the report, “but students can only achieve at the highest levels when they believe that they are in control of their success.”

The full 2012 PISA results can be found here.

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Thai Students Learn Chinese Culture Through Strengthened Bi-Lateral Relations

SainampeungPremier Li Keqiang visited the Chongfha Sin Seng School in Chaing Mai, Thailand; a 112 year old bi-lingual school that teaches traditional Chinese education in the country. The Chinese Prime Minister visited Thailand to strengthen the “familial affection” between the two countries; ties that have played a central role for China’s relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The Chinese prime minster began his visitation at Chongfha Sin Seng School with performances that demonstrated students’ skills in classic Chinese arts, which included songs on traditional Chinese musical instruments, the erhu, yangqin and zither, and dances based in the arts of Tai Ji, martial arts and fan dancing. Classes are conducted by Chinese volunteer teachers who teach Chinese literature, history, geography and calligraphy.

Over 2,500 students from kindergarten through high school study at the facility, and less than 30% of the students are ethnic Chinese. Driven by Thailand’s blooming business ties with China, Thai parents are enrolling more and more children into the foreign academic institution. A Chinese-language teacher at the school, Chaidan Saeting said, “now Chinese is more popular than English when the parents consider having their children learn a foreign language.”

At least 80 schools across Thailand are following in Chongfha Sin Seng School’s footsteps, affirming the projected friendship which may waive visa requirements of visitors between both countries. Plans for a high-speed railway to connect the two countries for both business and tourist visitations was also announced. According to a Chinese reporting network, China is currently the largest trading partner of Thailand, with bilateral trade reaching almost 70 billion USD last year and a projected increase to 100 billion USD by 2015.

Premier Li Keqiang congratulated the school on its achievements and encouraged students to be envoys of the Chinese culture to “plant the Sino-Thai friendship deeply in the hearts of people.” 

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Cultural Diversity Playgroup in Hong Kong Benefits Refugee Children

Through the tunnelThe Hong Kong refugee organization Vision First holds a weekly Cultural Diversity Playgroup for children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years old. The concept behind this group is to provide children and parents with a setting where Hong Kong locals can interact with refugees and children of other nationalities. This program helps to build community ties and teach the values of tolerance and diversity for different cultural backgrounds.

These groups bring together children from up to 14 different national backgrounds that include: Hong Kong locals, British, Germans, Australians, Americans, Rwandese, South Koreans, Sri Lankans, Ugandese, Togolese and Congolese. During these playgroups, children engage in various play activities. They have free time to play, sing together, learn new words in different languages, and engage in other fun learning activities.

Also, Vision First sometimes invites guest performers to come and share their culture and music. In the past they have had a drummer from the West African country of Togo, a singer from Rwanda, and a guitarist from the Democratic Republic of Congo perform.

A British mother of one of the attendees, Amanda Lote said “I thought it would be great for my son Cassius – and myself – to have exposure to different kids and mums and dads in different circumstances, and that it would be culturally enriching for him, which it was.” Similarly, German father Christian Dickgreber stated, “it’s great that our child is getting exposure to all these different cultures but, on top of that, it’s equally satisfying knowing the money we give is going to a good cause.”

All of the proceeds from the weekly playgroups go to support refugee assistance programs provided by Vision First. This organization works to provide social support to the refugee population which struggles with the challenges of poverty, discrimination, racism and a lack of government support and recognition. Specifically they assist with basic needs that include healthcare, food, clothing, shelter and child care.

As a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong retains some degree of autonomy over determining laws and policies that apply to refugees. Although the People’s Republic of China signed onto the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention, Hong Kong has not and therefore does not grant refugees with either legal status or protection.This means that refugees often live for years without access to services such as education, employment, healthcare or other social services. Without government support, refugees can only rely upon the limited services local NGOs provide.

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China Introduces Education Reforms to De-Emphasize English Language Curriculum

Smoggy Sunset - Beijing, ChinaThe Beijing Municipal Education Commission proposed education reforms that will de-emphasize English language curriculum in the gaokao, China’s national higher education examinations. The proposition aims to relieve pressure on China’s students to master the language and counteracts fears of the English language eventually overtaking Mandarin. The decision was met with conflictual opinions from China’s students, parents, and educators.

Beginning in 2016, Beijing’s English language higher education entrance exams will be reduced from 150 to 100 points while the number of points given to Chinese and mathematics will be increased; English, Chinese, and mathematics currently have the same weighting. An additional recommendation suggests completely removing English language classes from the country’s curriculum before grade three.

According to the Beijing Education Examinations Authority, the adjustments will “focus on English-language application and basic skills, while playing down its selection function.” Li Yi of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education said, “the change highlights the fundamental importance of mother tongue in the curriculum.”

Sang Jinlong, deputy head of Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences explained, “the general public is dissatisfied with a school system that gives emphasis to English over Chinese.”

In contrast, a Chinese citizen reportedly called the proposal a “setback of history” and “complacent and conservative,” and urged citizens to give greater importance to the English language because it “empowers people to communicate with the world by themselves.”

Luo Enze, Beijing high school student, highlighted the positive and negative effects of the decision and said “a drop in the overall scores of English examination means that our English studying workload will shrink, which is good news to many of us. But on the other hand, we may no longer work hard on English, which may have an adverse effect if we choose to have an English major or study abroad in the future. What’s more, students who are good at English may be reluctant to hear the news because they are losing their edge in gaokao.”

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Global Slavery Index: Almost 30 Million People Currently Enslaved

0001_zoriah_child_labor_children_working_20120816_0203A new report published by the Australian-based Walk Free Foundation revealed that nearly 30 million people worldwide are forced into practices of modern slavery.

According to the Foundation, “’slavery’ refers to the condition of treating another person as if they were property – something to be bought, sold, traded, or even destroyed,” and includes sexual exploitation of women and children, forced marriage, child soldiers, organ removal, forced labor, forced begging, or forced servitude. These forms of modern slavery are driven by extreme poverty, gender inequality, ethnic divisions, systems of economic exploitation, and high levels of government corruption.

Almost half of the entire enslaved population lives in India with a staggering estimation of 14 million people. China follows with almost 3 million and Pakistan with 2.1 million people. West African country Mauritania has the highest proportion of slaves with 4% of its 3.4 million people enslaved, followed by Haiti where most of the country’s slaves are children.

A total of 160 countries were ranked and based on an estimated prevalence of slavery by population (accounts for 95% of total), measure of the level of human trafficking in and out of the country (2.5%), and level of child and early marriage within the country (2.5%). 

The report explains “today some people are still being born into hereditary slavery, a staggering but harsh reality, particularly in parts of West Africa and South Asia. Other victims are captured or kidnapped before being sold or kept for exploitation, whether through ‘marriage’, unpaid labor on fishing boats, or as domestic workers. Others are tricked and lured into situations they cannot escape, with false promises of a good job or an education.”

The Walk Free Foundation provides the world’s first Global Slavery Index and hopes to solve these issues by building public awareness, using empirical evidence in the context of each country’s efforts in eradicating slavery, begin a global fund to implement anti-slavery interventions in countries most needed, and by working with business leaders to ensure best practices without enslavement. 

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Child Abduction in China Feeds the Adoption Industry

Kidnapped Girls, Foochow, China [1904] Attribution Unk Upon the news that the Chinese government has rescued 92 children from a kidnapping ring, there has been renewed international attention to the rise in human trafficking throughout China over the past few years. Some estimate that up to 70,000 children are abducted from their families annually, making this a problem of epidemic proportions. The majority of these children are sold for adoption, but others end up living in orphanages and on the streets, or are forced into labor and the sex trade.

Children can be sold for adoption for between $5,000 and $13,000, making child abduction a profitable and growing business in China. Once kidnapped, children may be sold to adoption agencies or directly to other Chinese families interested in having a son. With the country’s one-child policy and the high value placed on male children, many families would rather purchase a son than risk having a daughter naturally.

Exact numbers on the percentage of kidnapped children being sold for adoption remain unavailable. While the Chinese government keeps these statistics out of the public eye, countries that adopt large numbers of Chinese children, like the United States, do not press either for answers or further investigation into this serious problem.

Despite the lack of available data, the extent of this issue became more widely publicized in August of this year when Charlie Custer and Leia Li released their documentary Living with Dead Hearts online. According to Mr. Custer, “the statistics are terrifying, but they’re just statistics, especially for people outside China.” To illustrate the devastating effects of child abduction, filmmakers followed three sets of Chinese parents as they searched for their missing children. The resulting imagery shows the anguish families suffer as well as the miserable conditions children face following abduction.

Several barriers make solving this problem difficult. To begin with, children are often abducted from families that are poor and have little education. As a result, they have no resources to look for their children and are unaware of their legal rights under Chinese law.

Finding a kidnapped child takes a large investment of time and requires the cooperation of authorities. Since the chances of successfully locating these children are extremely slim, police often consider it a waste of time and resources to look for them. Recovering these children is further hampered by police officers and family planning officials that are involved with kidnappers and facilitate their operations.

This epidemic was further investigated on Sept 27th at the meeting of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. When Chinese delegates were asked if the government would legally prohibit all human trafficking including the sale of children, they responded by declining to answer.

This ongoing failure to make significant improvements was also noted by the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, which placed China in the lowest ranking of countries worldwide.  According to the report, China was “deemed not to be making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards and is placed on Tier 3.”


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Beijing Conference Tackles Education Barriers for Disabled Students

Kids, the Children's Day in the Hope SchoolThe Beijing Forum on Human Rights has drawn attention once again to the state of education for disabled students in China. Amidst reports of discrimination and exclusion, human rights experts have announced policy recommendations aimed at making education more accessible for children with disabilities.

Conference participants learned that according to China’s Education Ministry, 28% of children with disabilities are not enrolled in school. Mainstream primary schools often lack appropriate facilities and teachers trained in special needs education. Though special needs schools can generally provide more support, students with intellectual disabilities often struggle to find a place and are passed over in favor of students with physical disabilities. In higher education, few universities accept students with disabilities, and those that do often restrict the subjects they may study.

In response to the discouraging statistics, the China Society for Human Rights has urged the government to increase spending on education for disabled students.

Ye Xiaowen, Vice President of the Society, told the conference that equal access to education is not only a human rights issue, “but also has a direct bearing on the sustainable development of our Chinese nation.”

According to Ye, removing educational barriers would lead to vast improvements in quality of life and securing a bright future.

Zhou Haibin, program officer from the International Labor Organization, told China Daily that the Chinese government should also adopt an inclusive education plan that focuses on the future, addressing issues like employment and vocational education.

“This needs more commitment from all aspects of society,” said Zhou. “It not only means an education system that recognizes and meets the learning needs of all students, but also an effort to achieve social inclusion for the disabled community.”

The Beijing Forum on Human Rights ran September 12-13, 2013, and included 100 participants from 33 countries.

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Education Reform in China Demands More Creativity, Less Testing


China’s Ministry of Education recently proposed a lighter workload for Chinese students. If enacted the new regulations would signify a major change in predominantly test-based, competitive Chinese schools.

Among the proposed changes are reduced testing and a ban on written homework for primary school children. Young kids would instead be given “experiential homework” like hands-on crafts, field trips, and other creative activities.

One of the major concerns with the Chinese education system is that, while Chinese students outperform other countries on international tests, they are more stressed and anxious. Chinese students also score lower on creativity than students in other countries.

A Chinese education expert, Xiong Bingqi, told the Los Angeles Times, “ have huge vocabularies and they do math well. However, the level of their creativity and imagination is low.”

The proposals are still being debated, but according to the China Daily, “it seems beyond doubt that the new rules will come into effect soon.”

China’s Ministry of Education has launched a series of campaigns advocating for a more hands-on education agenda, looking toward American education as a template. Ni Minjing, a physics teacher in Shanghai and the director of the Shanghai Education Commission’s basic education department, told the Shanghai Daily that Chinese students have less opportunity for hands-on experience than American students, and that means less opportunity to exercise critical thinking.

“When American high school students are discussing the latest models of airplanes, satellites and submarines,” Minjing said, “China’s smartest students are buried in homework and examination papers.”

For the time being, secondary students still face China’s national university entrance exam, known as the gaokao or high test. The exam takes place for nine hours over two days, and student results are the sole determinate for university admissions.

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