Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

A childhood lost: painting China’s one child policy

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, April 11, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – He does not accuse, this little boy with the haunting expression, solemn eyed, gazing directly out from the canvas. He does not ask, as he might well ask, ‘Why am I alone?’ but merely stands still and straight, looking steadily forward at the viewer as his imaginary siblings play around him. 

The little boy’s face is that of 38 year-old Chinese painter Li Tianbing, taken from photos of himself as a child; the other little boys are his imaginary playmates, brothers and sisters who were never born, who populated his solitary life. Li’s work – huge canvases of ghostly children playing in landscapes that evoke both China’s ancient artistic tradition and its conflicted industrialised present – focuses consciously on the impact on individual lives of the country’s One Child Policy. He was five when the government issued it in 1979.

An exhibition of Li’s paintings, titled “A Game as Pretense of Being,” is currently making an impact in Paris, but could perhaps more appropriately have been titled, “A Childhood of One”. The focus of his work, Li says, is not on the large statistics whose immense scale can depersonalise, but on the policy’s impact on individual human lives. Children in China now, he says, for the first time in the country’s history, know only the life of solitude. No one is allowed to have brothers and sisters, and there are no large families in a country where for thousands of years family was all.

Li studied international relations in university, then came to Paris at the age of 22 to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He began painting from his memories and his tiny cache of photos. He said in a video interview that when he was a child, using these photos of himself, he created a whole other imaginary self, a life that included siblings and a large and happy family.

“My paintings are about childhood, but a childhood that is conjured up. The childhood I paint is not what happened in my real childhood,” he says.

“I think the One Child policy was a unique social phenomenon of our generation. What I want to express now is how this generation of people sees the world. The signs he carries in his body, his knowledge of the world and his experience of the world.”

When I was looking at the paintings on the internet, and I read that these children were the images of the imaginary siblings Li never had, my first response was, “Oh, he did that too?” Because I was also an only child, raised by a divorced single mother in the 1970s, and I recognised the expression, that of a child immersed in his own inner world, peopled with imaginary friends, pursuing fantasy adventures far away from lonely reality.

Li Tianbing grew up in rural China in the 1970s, the era following the Communist takeover, when the government issued a decree that no one could have more than one child. Government statistics, widely acknowledged to be unrealistically low, show that the policy has resulted in the loss of at least 400 million people, more than ten times the population of Canada.

The single-minded focus of the government at the time was forcing the country to industrialise, to prove to the world the superiority of Marxist principles. To the ruling class of the time, and up to today, the ideology takes priority over the human needs of the people. As a result, China has the world’s highest rates of capital punishment, abortion and suicide among women. In fact, it is the only country in the world where the suicide rate for women exceeds that of men.

While the policy is overt in China, it is merely a more brutalised version of the societal norm of the West. Here it is not forcibly imposed on the people from above, but it insinuated itself into the minds and hearts of the people I grew up around, where it is every bit as entrenched. To the people of my generation, born in the late 1960s to hippie parents whose rejection of the old values has infiltrated every aspect of our societies, being alone, being “only,” is our norm.

And it produces much the same result: adults whose loneliness is deeply embedded, who take solitude for granted, for whom family life is no more than a hazy fantasy gleaned from books and films, less likely to marry and have children of our own, less interested in engaging in the boisterous unpredictable arenas of the active world, always feeling vaguely like an observer rather than a participant. 

The loneliness wells up from the faces in Li’s paintings like a deep, suppressed groan.

These are the faces of children, some of them obviously very small children, but there is little evidence of innocence. These are not the sun-drenched dreams of golden-haired, apple-cheeked poppets playing sweetly in meadows and country gardens.

The children in Li’s paintings are not starveling, they are not ragged or grubby or neglected. But they are distant, perhaps envious, and a faint but persistent undertone of anger rings incessantly in the viewer’s mind when he looks back at their eyes.

These children live in another world where we are excluded. Who are we to bring our adult reality, with our macro-economic theories and their overbearing imperatives, into their private realm?

Why have we imposed ourselves in this moment, intruding and breaking their concentration? A concentration that is needed to keep reality at bay. The children wait for us to be done looking at them, so they can get back to their play, their thoughts, their world.

In some of the paintings, it is difficult to tell which is the fantasy, which the ghost, and which the reality. A grayscale little boy, holding a toy, runs down a railway track that cuts through a dimly rendered countryside, with ghostly translucent buildings looming up over him as if in a mist. A group of little boys, in bright pink chroma, follows behind him like a school of glittering fish. Which is the reality, and which is the ghost? Where does the child’s imagination end and the real world, the world of gray industrial scenes, begin?

In another, vaporous children stand before snow-covered tree branches, reading communist newspapers. Of the three, only one looks up and over his paper towards the viewer, an expression of surprise on his face, having seen us watching him, perhaps, and wondering where, what world, we have appeared from.

In nearly every painting, one little boy, Li himself, always with the same expression of surprise and disbelief, looks directly at us, as though we are the apparitions intruding into his world.

The paintings have an almost dystopian quality to them, even those showing apparently idyllic natural surroundings, their palettes largely monochromatic, the expressions of the children never joyful but mostly preoccupied and distant. Some of the faces, even those looking directly into the eyes of the viewer, seem closed, as if these children have already made up their minds, already judged the world created for them as a disappointment, and closed the door on us.

Li’s work is an attempt to highlight the reality that the policies that have shaped the macro-picture of demographics, of the economic and social realities on a grand scale in a country with over a billion human beings, have their greatest effect on the individual souls. The human world is not made up of faceless masses, but of one person at a time, living in a unity of a human society made up of other individual persons. In a sense, the existence of “society,” and “culture” and “economics” are all abstractions. Human society can never be about these intangible ideas, but about human beings, one human being at a time.

What a policy that focuses only on these abstractions does to a single, unique human being is the question with which governments never concern themselves, and academics only rarely.

But a single painting is like a single person, and its message, no matter how many see it, is always personal. The children in these paintings assert that they are not instruments or products for use in a grand socio-economic experiment.

See more of Li’s paintings here.

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Fr. Mark Hodges

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VIDEO: Expert says China will continue forced abortions, sterilizations

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

IRONDALE, Alabama, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – An expert on China says the country's move from the infamous "one-child per family" policy of forced abortion and sterilization to a "two-child" policy will leave the status quo largely intact.

Human rights activist Reggie Littlejohn, an expert on China and the president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, spoke with Raymond Arroyo of Eternal Word Television Network's The World Over show about China's new policy of allowing families two children.

Littlejohn said that the change from a one-child to a two-child policy is motivated not by human rights, but by demographics. "It is not that the Chinese communist party has suddenly grown a conscience...at all. It is that they are facing a threefold demographic disaster."

First of all, Ms. Littlejohn said, China "doesn't have enough women, because of their gendercide."

"The core of the policy is not that they allow one child or two children, but is that they are setting a limit, and enforcing it through forced sterilization, forced contraception, and a whole web of surveillance of women, monitoring women's menstrual cycles and their fertility," Littlejohn explained. "All of that coercion will remain the same under a two-child policy."

"A two-child policy carries all of the [same] terrible and appalling methods of abortion as the one child policy," Ms. Littlejohn explained. "It's just that they start killing after two, instead of after one."

Littlejohn went on to say that China's demographic problems resulting from 40 years of gendercide will not be fixed by the new two-child allowance. "Even if China were to completely abolish their policy right now, and allow to everybody to have as many kids as they want to have, it's going to take twenty years for the women to grow to the point where they can marry, and everybody to the point where they can be workers," she said.

She said that the Chinese have "dug themselves in a hole that they can't get out of."  Arroyo pointed out that there are 33 million more men than women in China today.

Littlejohn does not expect gendercide to decrease immediately. "What I think is going to happen," Littlejohn said, "is couples who have a boy are going to stop at one," because of the high expense of having children in China. "And those who have a girl first are going to continue to abort a second daughter, because they still want to have a son."

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When Arroyo pointed out that government statistics say 350 billion dollars since 1980 were levied in fines against those who tried to defy China's one-child policy, Littlejohn responded, "That's why I don't think China will ever abandon its policy: it's a huge money-maker for them." She noted that local officials determine the amount of fines and line their pockets with the cash.

She pointed out that five years ago, the Chinese government admitted that over four hundred million babies in the womb have been killed – and that number is far greater today.

Littlejohn pointed out that any Chinese citizen who dares to tell the truth about the communist policy is persecuted. "People who get their stories to the West – not only do they have to endure the trauma of the forced abortion itself, but they have to endure trauma [against] themselves and their families from the Chinese Communist Party for seeing them before the world."

"Thank God for Ted Cruz, also for Marco Rubio, and for Congressman Chris Smith – all three of those have come out with very, very powerful statements saying basically that the two-child policy does not fix any of the problems with the one-child policy," Littlejohn said. "I'm so glad that they ... are getting the truth out there."

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz spoke against China's policy earlier this month. "In America, we should stand with victims of oppression," he said. "These are horrific acts of brutality. They are inhumane. They are contrary not only to American values, but to human rights across the globe, and they are carried out as a matter of policy."

Rep. Chris Smith and Sen. Marco Rubio have also issued statements cautioning that China's move to a two-child policy will not end brutal, coercive population control.  

Rep. Smith, chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees human rights and chairman of the Congressional-Executive China Commission, held a hearing entitled "China's One-Child Policy: The Government's Massive Crime Against Women and Unborn Babies." Smith explained, "The policy has directly contributed to what is accurately described as gendercide – the deliberate extermination of a girl, born or unborn, simply because she happens to be female."

In October, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio criticized China's two-child policy. "The policy is still repressive," Rubio explained. "The fact remains that when couples conceive a third child, the Chinese government will force them to eliminate him or her, by any means necessary."

Rubio concluded, "A two-child policy is as indefensible and inhumane as a one-child policy, and it would be a mistake to assume this change in any way reflects a newfound respect for human rights by Beijing. The U.S. must continue advocating for the complete elimination of government-forced population planning."

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Steve Weatherbe

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Irish children’s minister joins call for nation to abandon pro-life constitution

Steve Weatherbe
By Steve Weatherbe

DUBLIN, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Ireland's health minister has joined the chorus of feminist groups calling for a referendum to repeal the country's 30-year-old Eighth Amendment, a part of the Constitution, which allows abortion only when the mother's life is directly threatened.

Children's Minister Dr. James Reilly told the Sunday Independent that despite the reluctance of the major parties (including his own Fine Gael) to support a referendum, the public wants it. "We have had more than 30 years on this and we really need political leadership on this issue. I think it is quite clear from opinion polls that the vast majority of people are way ahead of politicians on this."

Reilly said women carrying unborn babies with fatal abnormalities should be allowed to have abortions, regardless of whether delivery poses a risk to their lives or health.

But Cora Sherlock, the head of the Prolife Campaign, told LifeSiteNews, "It is not something the people really want; it is not coming from the grassroots, but from a few pressure groups like Amnesty International. The people of Ireland have always had a heart for the unborn."

Pro-abortion activist Sinead Kennedy of the Repeal the Eighth Coalition said every politician should declare his or her position. "We would like to see political parties in the run up to the election [expected in spring] come out and declare that this will be [a] red-line issue for any participation in government."

In fact, in September, Ireland's Taoiseach, or prime minister, Enda Kenny, said his government, if re-elected, will hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment only if a workable alternative is advanced at the same time.

Sherlock noted that despite an "aggressive campaign" from Amnesty Ireland and its uncritical promotion by the news media, popular support for the referendum is waning. A poll published by the Sunday Independent on Nov. 22 showed 56% in favor of the referendum, down 10% from June, with 22% opposed.

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Support for abortion in specific cases is also down: in cases of fatal abnormalities in the unborn baby, support for abortion is down 9% to 55%; when the mother threatens suicide, it is down 4% to 68%; and when there is a long-term threat to the mother's health, support is down 5% to 64%.

"I think it is going down because people are becoming aware of the Planned Parenthood stories from the U.S., and of Kermit Gosnell," Sherlock said, in reference to the videos showing America's leading abortion provider trafficking in body parts from aborted babies, and to the abortionist convicted of multiple murders of babies who survived his botched abortions only to be executed by him and his staff afterwards. "The news media don't like to cover those stories, but the social media has a mind of its own," she added.

Last year, several government ministers declared that the people of Ireland had "no appetite" or "little appetite" for a referendum; however, they might vote if it were held anyway. They promised there would be no referendum before the 2016 election and even warned against making it an election issue, which was the case in 1983 with the referendum that put Amendment Eight in the Constitution in the first place.

The Eighth Amendment declares the unborn child's life as equal to, and equally worthy of protection as, the life of the mother. The vagueness of this formula led the current government to pass a law two years ago allowing abortion when the mother's life is at risk, including at risk by suicide, right up to the day of a child's birth.

Popular opinion still opposed abortion as late as 2007, but by 2012, support for abortion had risen to 85%. Lately, Amnesty International has lent its reputation to the push for a referendum, leading Sherlock to predict, "Amnesty will be the loser when the hypocrisy of a so-called human rights group attacking the unborn becomes evident and when people see that they are only willing to talk about teenage pregnancy, but not about the unborn, not about the Planned Parenthood videos nor Kermit Gosnell, and about how these go hand in hand with abortion on request."

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Gina Raimondo, Democrat candidate for governor of Rhode Island http://www.ginaraimondo.com/
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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Abortion supporters slam new budget by Rhode Island’s Democrat governor

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, November 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Abortion advocates aren't happy with a budget bill signed by Rhode Island's Democratic governor, because it gave 9,000 people insurance coverage that doesn't cover elective abortions.

Earlier this year, an anonymous HIV-positive practicing Catholic won a lawsuit against the state, gaining the right for citizens under the state's Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange to have an insurance plan that doesn't cover elective abortions. Shortly after John Doe's victory, pro-abortion governor Gina Raimondo signed a budget bill that included a pro-life rider making the legal victory statutory law.

The law caused 9,000 out of approximately 30,000 people who were automatically enrolled in health insurance programs for 2016 to have insurance coverage without elective abortion coverage. State officials are now scrambling to notify insurees that they can change their coverage by December 23.

Abortion groups aren't happy, with one blogger writing that Raimondo's signature means that "those who supported Gina Raimondo's bid for Governor of Rhode Island may want to seriously reconsider their support."

The governor won support from at least two national abortion groups in her race last year.

A spokesperson for Raimondo's office e-mailed that "the Governor's first priority is ensuring that all Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to access affordable health insurance that meets their needs, including access to safe and affordable reproductive healthcare."

"Changes in state policy require insurance carriers participating in HealthSource RI to offer one plan at every 'metal level' that does not include most abortion coverage," Maria Tocco told LifeSiteNews. "This year, HSRI launched an automatic renewal process to ensure that Rhode Islanders who signed up for coverage would maintain it without any gap in service."

Tocco e-mailed that "HSRI proactively reached out to all its customers by mail before the start of the open enrollment period to let customers know precisely which plans include abortion coverage and which do not."

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In a phone call, Tocco clarified that Health Source Rhode Island had gotten involved in contacting enrollees – a process normally left up to insurers – because state policy had caused the change in coverage. Tocco clarified that this would be the case if coverage for other medical services and products were changed by state policy.

Barth Bracy, the executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life, said arguments by abortion advocates that they want to expand choice to those who may not be aware of the loss of abortion insurance coverage are false. "Note that each enrollee in an abortion plan (regardless of age, sex, or family status) pays a surcharge into the abortion-slush fund created by Obamacare," he said. "The fewer people who enroll in an abortion-covering plan, the higher the charge must be on those who do choose those plans, increasing the differential between the abortion and non-abortion plans, thus making the abortion plans less attractive."

"This is all about padding the Obamacare abortion slush fund," he concluded, saying that "the only 'error' by the government (both federal and state) was the error of King Herod, who did not succeed in his designs to get every single child. And that was due to the work of RI Right to Life and ADF, which together threw a monkey wrench into the monstrous machine created by Obamacare."

Doe told LifeSiteNews that he is "pleased and grateful that, because of the efforts of the Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee, the Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit, and subsequent state legislation, Rhode Islanders who oppose abortion can now participate in the state's health insurance exchange without being forced to fund abortions."

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Casey Mattox said that "Rhode Islanders now have the choice of plans that cover and those that don't cover elective abortions." Mattox criticized abortion advocates for "demand[ing] that everyone, including a pro-life man like our client, be compelled to pay a special abortion fee to subsidize the abortion industry. Federal and state law requires Rhode Island to offer this choice to their citizens, and we are pleased with this outcome."

Tocco told LifeSiteNews that the bill and the John Doe lawsuit were unrelated. However, Mattox, who represented Doe in court, noted that the bill's signature "took place after our client won his lawsuit."

"It doesn't matter to us how the governor wants to frame this," Mattox told LifeSiteNews. "We are just glad for the people of Rhode Island that the right thing was done."

Bracy clarified that the rider was his group's way of making sure the legal decision was formally in state law.


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