I have long admired Secretary Hillary Clinton as a female world leader. She inspired a whole generation—myself included—at the UN Women's Conference in 1995 when she declared that "women's rights are human rights." She spoke those oft-quoted words in Beijing years ago, but what happened to Chen Guangcheng under her watch in Beijing yesterday was a betrayal of these very same rights she vowed to uphold.
This is because Chen Guangcheng is not just a "dissident." In fact, he did not even advocate against the central government. He is a folk hero in China, a defender of women, children, and the poor. Chen has worked tirelessly on behalf of women who face forced abortion and sterilization at the hands of the officials who should be protecting their citizens' rights.
Words simply cannot express Chen's value as a human rights advocate. He is fighting one of the most brutal state-sanctioned human rights abuses in the world.
As a self-taught lawyer, he became troubled at the plight of young women in his province of Shandong. Under the one-child policy, women are regularly subjected to invasive "pregnancy checks," and officials brutalize them if they try to refuse. If they become pregnant, they are forced to undergo abortions, even very late in their terms—and many are sterilized under threat. The numbers are sobering:
- 400 million babies have been forcibly aborted or killed after birth.
- Because of the one-child policy and a cultural preference for males, one out of every six girls is aborted, killed, or abandoned.
- There are now nearly 40 million "missing" women.
- Sex trafficking and crime are skyrocketing in China in conjunction with the bachelor boom. Women are increasingly commoditized, with traffickers selling girls to families as child brides.
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