Thursday, October 21, 2021

China’s leaders eye criminal justice — but will they fix sex abuse cases?

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When Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s administration unveiled an ambitious seven-point plan this week to clean up the toxic environment, enhance financial regulation and improve mass communications, a question loomed large: Would the agenda also address the country’s criminal justice system?

Before his government was in charge, said Didi Qiu, an activist who has campaigned on women’s rights issues, China had turned a blind eye to corruption among police officers accused of rape, rape of female corpses and general perversion of power.

“The government has always prioritized solving its own problems, like corruption,” Ms. Qiu said. “Problems like sex abuse are just ignored.”

Complicating the call for gender justice is a recent ruling by China’s supreme court, which required all women in rural areas, who otherwise qualify for funding for abortions, to sign legal documents pledging that they were only in the labor force in order to undergo one, because female fetuses are seen as a burden to the economy.

The decision, for a population where the average age is about 27, raised fears among those who view motherhood as a sacrosanct responsibility, that the decision would create a tipping point for Chinese women into surrogacy and assisted reproduction, even at the risk of giving birth to a disabled child.

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