In June of 1993, three hundred Chinese people fleeing the one-child policy and its forced abortion and forced sterilization escaped from China by boat and landed in the New York Harbor. President Clinton, unlike previous administrations, denied them asylum and immediately imprisoned them in various U.S. prisons. During their three years of imprisonment, few have received asylum through their attempts in U.S. courts. Many have given up and returned to China. Punishments of severe beatings, imprisonments, and heavy fines equivalent of 20 to 30 years salary have been reported following their return.
The process to obtain legislation in the U.S. qualifying forced abortion and forced sterilization as grounds for asylum was attempted during this three year plight of these most desperate people. Four of the refugees gave their testimonies before the U.S. House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights for the benefit of this legislation. This occurred after many failed arrangements with the U.S. government to allow them to speak. Stories of a six-month old baby in the womb forcibly removed, hiding in caves to escape the family planning workers pursuing them for forced sterilization, retrieving an abandoned baby girl on the roadside while walking home from a clinic after receiving medical attention for an infection from a forced abortion, and many other details of struggle and hardship were heard and recorded relating to these atrocities.
The legislation passed in both Houses of the Congress, was sent to the White House for the President’s signature, but was vetoed by President Clinton. Most of the women on the boat were initially imprisoned in one of the worst prison’s in America known for abuse of its prison population. When the process of their repatriation to China began, they were taken to the Bakersfield prison in California. Through the efforts of Life Coalition International, nine of the women have received asylum in Ecuador and recently, additional nations have come forward to offer third country asylum.
President Clinton threatened trade sanctions with China over problems with copyrighting, but within days reported his intent to renew Most-Favored-Nation trade status with China for the “best interest of America.” Three of the nine women in the Bakersfield Prison were deported back to China as President Clinton made these decisions. Harry Wu visited the York County Prison in York, Pennsylvania where one-hundred and forty of the men were held. They did not meet with Harry Wu for fear of even heavier penalties when they return to China. Of the fifty-nine men remaining in the York Prison over half of them will return to China. An International agreement with the United States and nations surrounding China is occurring to prevent any ships from leaving China with those trying to escape.
As of now LCI has been able to arrange asylum in Ecuador for the women who were imprisoned in Bakersfield. They are presently living and working in Ecuador.