Chinese Man Dies After Attempted Forced Sterilization

china-family-planning-2011.jpg A man walks past a propaganda pavilion for family planning services and the one-child policy in Qingdao, Oct. 12, 2011.

A 59-year-old man has died in a confrontation with village officials after an attempted forced sterilization in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan, according to family members who have disputed the government's account of his death.

Authorities have said Laodian township resident Guo Xingcong took pesticide after being taken for a sterilization procedure.

But Guo's family claimed he had been harassed by local officials to pay up fines for allegedly exceeding strict birth quotas just before his death. His body was covered in injuries and swiftly buried.

Guo's son Guo Zhengcai said more than 100 officials and police had taken his father's body for burial on Aug. 5 about a week after his mother found the body at the door of the family home.

"They held us under house arrest, and they blocked up the intersection in the village, so no one could come in or out."

"All I want now is justice; that is my biggest wish," he said.

Local family planning authorities had harassed Guo Xingcong and his wife to be sterilized over a number of years, even though both said they were too old to have more children, in a bid to make money from the fines levied in lieu of their consent, Guo Zhengcai said.

"My family has never exceeded the birth quota," he said. "There are two [grown] children in our family. I am the youngest, and will soon be 26."

He said the authorities had been putting pressure on his parents to undergo a sterilization operation since 2006, but that they had always refused.

"It's clear that this is about getting money, because they charge a fine in lieu of sterilization," Guo said.

'They took my husband away'

Guo Xingcong's wife Yu Shunxiu said she had come home on July 28 to be told by villagers that her husband's dead body had been dumped at her front door.

"Our village officials said he was a target for sterilization," Yu told RFA's Mandarin Service, saying she wasn't home at the time when officials took her husband away.

"They took my husband away, to the hillside, then three village officials dragged him back to our front door."

"The villagers told me my husband had been beaten to death and left at our front door. The head of the village has run off. All the officials have run off," she said.

Yu, 48, said she is no longer able to bear children, so the charges of exceeding birth quotas were meaningless.

Covered in injuries

Guo Zhengcai said his father's body bore the marks of numerous injuries when he saw it. He said officials had already visited his father twice before his death to demand 10,000 yuan (U.S. $1,600) in fines for "exceeding the birth quota."

"The third time was on July 28.... My father got into an argument with them, and he was killed by them on the threshold of our home," Guo said.

"When I went back there, I saw a large number of injuries on his cold body, around his head and on his legs. When those three men saw the life go out of my father, they backed off and ran away."

Family-planning work

Zhang Yong, the villages secretary for the ruling Chinese Communist Party, declined to comment on the family's allegations.

"You'll have to talk to the press office at the Qiaojia county government," Zhang said, before hanging up the phone.

According to a statement issued by the Qiaojia county government, village-level officials Du Yuyong, Zhao Xiaowen, and Xu Fubin went to the Guo home on July 28 to "carry out ideological family planning work."

"After the workers had carried out ideological work with Guo Xingcong, Guo agreed to undergo the sterilization procedure," the county government said in a statement on his death.

"The three officials found Guo Xingcong hunched over in the hospital courtyard, coughing up white foam, and he died at the scene," the official account said.

Drinking pesticide

It said a preliminary autopsy had determined the cause of death as "poisoning from phosphate insecticide."

It confirmed that the authorities had buried Guo's body on Aug. 5 in spite of refusal by the family to go ahead with the funeral.

Guo Zhengcai said the family had tried to prevent the burial to prevent the evidence from being destroyed.

"It is turning black into white to say that he died from drinking pesticide," he said. "We have witness and material evidence to show that my father had multiple injuries, and that the government is just passing the buck."

"My mother said they have never bought phosphate pesticide before."

Filling quotas

Guo said the family's home village lies in a remote mountain area where most of the young people have already left to find work in larger urban areas.

"The local government is very corrupt," he said. "The young people are all working elsewhere, and those who are left behind are expected by officials to fill their quotas, for example, their family planning targets, which state that you have to arrest so many people."

China collects 28 billion yuan (U.S. $4.4 billion) a year in fines and charges from enforcing the one-child policy, official figures show.

Under current family planning rules, urban families are limited to one child, while rural families are allowed to have a second child if the first is a girl.

But celebrities and members of China's political elite often get away with having larger families than most ordinary Chinese.

Many of China's political and financial elite can afford to pay the fines necessary to have large numbers of children, while people without money or connections are routinely forced to undergo sterilization, or to terminate even very late-term pregnancies.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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