Chinese woman sues government over forced sterilization

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez |

(REUTERS file photo)In a 1997 file photo a man looks over a brand new operating room on display by a company that sells the mobile abortion clinic in China. It was in a van parked outside a conference hall where academics were discussing abortion during the 23rd General Population Conference. China has been accused of forcing women to have abortions even during late pregnancy, and sterilization, as a way to control the booming population.

BEIJING (Christian Examiner) -- A lawsuit against the Chinese government over a woman's forced sterilization went unheard in January after the Chinese court refused the case. Recent revisions in China's judicial process however could breath new life into the dispute and inspire others to file similar legal action.

This is one little case. There are thousands of cases in Chinese courts, but it should be seen as a positive development, that she is aware of her legal rights and did something about it
- Susan Finder, Attorney

Xia Runying, a resident of the rural Jiangxi Province, told VOA News that in 2012 a family planning committee in her county forcibly admitted her to a hospital. Reportedly, she and her husband were then coerced into allowing medical staff to perform a surgery that severed her fallopian tubes.

In the following months, Xia said she continually experienced side effects like dizziness and vomiting. She sought further medical attention and in 2014 was diagnosed with pelvic congestion syndrome, a condition Xia claims is tied to the surgery.

(REUTERS/Andrew Wong/ASW/CP/FILE PHOTO)A Chinese toddler walks past traditional Chinese statues representing "good luck" in Beijing in 2002. China's first family planning law came into effect in September 2002 granting legal redress against potential abuse. The family planning officers in the world's most populous country will face more challenges from the public if there are cases of rights abuse. Amnesty International has voiced concerns forced abortions or sterilisation are carried out against women detained or forcibly taken from their homes to have operations.

Xia's lawsuit states her forced sterilization not only damaged her health, but violated Chinese law. In addition to compensation for medical expenses, she petitioned for psychological damages as well.

Though Xia is the first to file this type of suit against the government, she is in no way alone. In addition to forced sterilization surgeries many women are forced to abort their unborn to uphold family planning policies.

While to date, no other women have filed a lawsuit like Xia's, some expect her courage will inspire others to follow in her footsteps now that the Administrative Procedure Law extends Chinese citizens' the right to sue government.

A recent report on the number of law suits filed since the legal reforms took effect May 1 demonstrate a readiness from Chinese citizens to seek legal action to protect themselves and their interests.

According to a report of The Beijing High People's Court, from Dec. 30, 2014 to May 8, 2015 a total of 349 lawsuits were filed against district governments in the nation's capital city. While many of those cases are likely related to land and business issues as well as other complaints, that number represents a 62 percent increase from all of 2013.

Still, Susan Finder, a longtime attorney told VOA, Xia's case showed promise despite the court's previous decision to dismiss it.

Speaking from decades of experience observing the Chinese legal system, Finder claimed the case could spark further reforms that could impact women's reproductive rights and family planning policies.

For 35 years China enforced a one-child policy. In 2013, that policy was changed to allow some families the right to have a second child.

"This is one little case. There are thousands of cases in Chinese courts, but it should be seen as a positive development, that she is aware of her legal rights and did something about it," Finder said.