A leader of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement is teaming up with US lawmakers in a push to end abortion of girls, warning of security risks as millions of Chinese men fail to find wives.
Chai Ling was one of the most visible organizers in the 1989 protests, serving as "general commander." She escaped Beijing's clampdown, fleeing to France and then the United States where she became an Internet entrepreneur.
After initially taking a low profile in exile, Chai Ling was baptized last year as she embraced Christianity. She speaks passionately of her faith, saying she has experienced "amazing transformations" and feels, "I am home, at last."
She launched the group All Girls Allowed, which aims to end what she described as "gendercide," the elimination of millions of girls in China and elsewhere through sex-selective abortion.
The group raises money to donate $20 (Dh73.4) a month to poor Chinese women who raise girls, hoping that their husbands and in-laws would see added value in keeping baby girls instead of considering them to be a burden.
The package will "give the mother a chance to take great pride, to take joy and to know there are people outside China who love them and there's a God who loves them," Chai Ling, who is now 45, said Wednesday in Washington.
Chai Ling led members of the US Congress in signing a declaration vowing to press for an end to sex-selective abortion not only in China but in India, where there is also a wide gap between the numbers of newborn boys and girls.
China since 1980 has banned most families from bearing more than one child, with activists saying that the government has forced women into abortions if they illegally become pregnant again.
"In China, the brutal reality is that no unborn girl is safe as long as forced abortion remains an integral part of the government's vicious population control agenda," said Representative Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey.
But hoping not to be caught in the polarizing US debate on abortion, Chai Ling enlisted both opponents of supporters of the legal right to an abortion, saying that all should agree against the systematic elimination of girls.
"Globally, the growing surplus of men will lead to increased social unrest and a more aggressive foreign policy," the declaration said.
"Gender imbalances have been shown to significantly disrupt spending patterns, leading to significant trade imbalances that are detrimental to the global economy," it said.
According to 2005 data, China had 119 boys for every 100 girls. All Girls Allowed estimated that by 2020, China would have 40 million more young men than women - a number equal to all young men in the United States.
"My research shows that the average surplus male in China is rural, unmarried, poor, unemployed and has little education. Few women desire such prospects as marriage partners," said Dudley Poston, a demographic expert at Texas A&M University who is an adjunct professor at three Chinese universities.
"These males are going to remain unmarried. They're going to live in bachelor ghettos in the big cities of China," Poston said.
He warned that the young men would create a vast market for commercial sex, creating "huge potential in China for an HIV epidemic."
A study published this year in The Lancet found that India had 7.1 million fewer girls than boys up to age six - with wealthier, educated women in fact more likely to abort female fetuses.
In most Indian communities, brides' families offer dowries to the groom upon marriage, meaning that some parents consider girls to be a bad investment.
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