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US urges UN on China Family Planning
Updated: 2005-06-23 13:00

The United States urged the U.N. population agency Wednesday to end its family planning program in China until Beijing stops its one-child policy.

President Bush's administration has barred all U.S. funding for the U.N. Population Fund for the last three years, charging that its support for China's population planning programs allows Beijing to implement single child policies.

The fund, known as UNFPA, has repeatedly called the allegations baseless, and uses money from other sources for its program in China.

It has cited a U.S. government report that found no evidence that it "knowingly supported or participated in ... coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization" in China.

But Kelly Ryan, deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, told UNFPA's executive board Wednesday that China's population and family planning law adopted in 2001 and its one-child policies "demonstrate that the birth limitation program clearly has coercive elements in law and in practice."

"If UNFPA would stop giving the `seal of approval,' I think we could move the ball along quite a bit more," Ryan said in an interview.

The Bush administration wants China's provinces to abolish regulations that, among other things, punish unplanned births, require couples to use contraception and require pregnancies be terminated if prenatal exams show the fetus to be severely deformed, Ryan said.

She also argued that China's policies violate the platform adopted at the 1994 U.N. population conference in Cairo which says parents have the right to decide the size and spacing of their families.

China's deputy U.N. ambassador Zhang Yishan countered that China's 1.3 billion people account for one-fifth of the world's population, and its per capita income is only 2.8 percent of the United States' so family planning is essential for development.

Without its policy, he said, China's population over the last 30 years would have grown by more than 300 million additional people, "which equals the entire U.S. population," he said.

Zhang said China was adhering to the 1994 U.N. platform which gives countries the right to set their own population policy. He stressed that the China's population and family planning law stipulates that family planning workers "shall adopt no coercive measures in whatever form."

As a result of China's 26-year cooperation with UNFPA, he said, China has learned "advanced international concepts on population and development and management methods" which have raised the level of reproductive health and family planning services.

In 32 counties where pilot programs were conducted, for example, maternal mortality dropped significantly and AIDS awareness increased, he said.

"A grievance mechanism has been established to protect people's legitimate rights and interests, including hot lines at the national, provincial and pilot county levels," Zhang said.

The UNFPA board meeting was closed but China and the United States provided their speeches.

UNFPA has proposed spending $27 million in China from 2006-2010 — less than 3 percent of what the Chinese put into population programs, said Sultan Aziz, head of UNFPA's Asia-Pacific bureau.

He said UNFPA programs in China have helped give people "increased choices, more information and they can determine the spacing of the births."

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