Author’s note: It was not my original intent to divert from the more lighthearted and general nature of this blog, however the recent story that’s been unraveling in China grabbed a lot of people’s attention, so I felt it necessary to follow the tangent. This is the concluding installment of the series on women’s issues.
I walked into the coffee shop of the Wangfujing Grand Hotel in Beijing, about a mile north and a mile east of Tiananmen Square. The restaurant is more crowded today than most mornings, and even the hotel lobby is full. I pick up pieces of Spanish, French, German, Italian, Hebrew, and a Babel of others that I couldn’t quite place.
CNN International is showing on about a half-dozen televisions in strategic places around the restaurant, and the closed-captioning was on – a good thing because it was almost impossible to hear.
I sat down at a table right under a TV, while ‘Sophie,’ my waitress for the past five days, poured coffee and greeted me in English. I thanked her and we exchanged smiles. I’d been here for a week – a really long week – but tomorrow I was going home.
Over the pleasant din in the room, I heard the CNN International Breaking News alert tones. Ronald Reagan was dead. People began shushing others, and heads throughout the restaurant turned towards the TVs. Even the waiters and busboys stopped to look up at the screens, then got right back to work.
After a long minute, people began resuming their conversations in a slightly more hushed tone. The only sound that didn’t stop at all during the few minutes of almost reverent silence was the happy squealing of infant children. Slowly the noise level returned to normal as the adults resumed their conversations.
All around me were young and middle-aged couples with baby strollers and diaper bags, Snugli baby-carriers, bottles, pacifiers – the whole works. Each of the couples had a newly-adopted baby girl, between a few months and maybe two years old.
New families were eating their first meal together. People were exchanging cameras back & forth to have their neighbors take pictures of them. The place had a glow to it. Couples from all over the world were now the parents of beautiful baby girls that not one person in all of China wanted.
China’s one-child policy, made in 1980 and toughened in 2000, has resulted in a current birth rate of 118 males for every 100 females. Over 15% of pregnancies are willfully terminated for no reason other than the sex of the child.
In addition, many of the girls who are fortunate enough to survive for nine months in utero will often be given up for adoption, sold to human traffickers, or sometimes just discarded. Many special-needs children – boys, and especially girls – are routinely given up for adoption or simply discarded.
I reflected back on former President Reagan, whose face was up on CNN-I again, and how maybe the fact that Jimmy Carter had closed our embassy in Taipei, and instead recognized Beijing’s communist government, had something to do with Reagan’s making the latter a one-term president.
All I knew was that they don’t expel little girls from their families in Taiwan, and I’d just spent a week in Beijing during which I saw way too much evidence of the systematic persecution of women in China, and it left me wondering why the rest of the world doesn’t do something about it.
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Next: Something way more light-hearted.