BEIZHANGLOU VILLAGE, Taiking County, Henan Province, April 1, 2013 (WRWF) – Earlier this month, it was reported widely in Chinese media sources that Yang Yuzhi hanged herself in the local Family Planning Office. Forcibly sterilized twice, she had for years suffered chronic pain from these traumatic procedures. Her medication drained the family finances, so she regularly petitioned the Family Planning Office for compensation, to no avail.
On March 13, according to her family, Yang was emotionally stable. There was nothing unusual, no reason to believe that she was at risk of suicide. On this day, she went as usual to press her petition at the Family Planning Office. Her family had no idea that she would never return.
Late that day, the Family Planning Commission told Yang’s family that she had committed suicide, and that they “found her body hanging at the top of the stairs.” She also appears to have been severely beaten. Her dead body was covered with bruises, and her neck was nearly severed by the wire rope from which she was hanging.
The explanation given by the Family Planning Office raises more questions than it answers. What was Yang doing at the top of the stairs in the Family Planning Office, for an extended period of time, by herself? Was she free to wander unsupervised around the Family Planning Office, with enough time to find a wire rope, attach it securely to the ceiling or another fixture, create a noose and hang herself – all this in a state of weakness and pain caused by the beatings? Why did no one discover that Yang was in the process of hanging herself at the top of the stairs (not in a hidden closet) and stop her?
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These unanswered questions raise the issue: Was this truly a suicide? Or did the Family Planning Officials torture Yang, then hang her to make it look like a suicide? Women’s Rights Without Frontiers demands an investigation.
This would not be the first time the Chinese Communist Party has been suspected of attempting to cover up a murder as “suicide.” In July 2012, well-known Tiananmen Square activist Li Wangyang was found dead, hanging in a hospital room. His friends called official claims that he had committed suicide “insulting” and “ridiculous,” according to a CNN report. Like Yang, Li was in “good spirits” the day he was found dead.
Moreover, while the world rightly stares in horror at late-term forced abortion, the death of Yang Yuzhi demonstrates the urgency of stopping forced sterilization as well. Lost in the headlines about the Chinese Communist Party’s recent admission that they have performed 336 million abortions under the One Child Policy is the fact that they also admitted to performing 196 million sterilizations. These sterilizations too often leave women butchered and maimed.
Forced sterilizations are routine. In April 2010, the Population and Family Planning Bureau detained 1,300 people in a campaign to sterilize more than 9,500 people, mostly women, in the Puning City, Guangdong Province. Those who resisted were detained, along with other family members, such as elderly grandparents.
Yang’s death also emphasizes the absence of the rule of law in China. She died while petitioning for justice. Family Planning Officials commonly regard themselves as being above the law. Rarely are they held to account for the many injustices they commit.
The death of Yang Yuzhi, if truly a suicide, also draws the connection between coercive family planning and the fact that China has the highest female suicide rate in the world. It has been reported that 500 women a day end their lives in China.