“We’re talking about rampant forced abortion, forced sterilizations … the execution of prisoners to harvest their organs for transplant. What does it take to say we’re not going to honor this country by participating in their Olympic Games?”
In this episode, we sit down with China human rights advocate Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, to discuss the campaign to move or boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
We also discuss her secret underground network saving the lives of baby girls and elderly widows in China, the forgotten victims of China’s one-child policy.
Jan Jekielek: Reggie Littlejohn, such a pleasure to have you on “American Thought Leaders.”
Reggie Littlejohn: Thank you for having me Jan. I’m a great admirer of this show.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Reggie, you’re organizing the 2022 Stop the Genocide Games, games being in China of course. So tell me, what is this all about?
Mrs. Littlejohn: We are a coalition of human rights organizations, and the two lead organizations are The Committee on the Present Danger: China and Women’s Rights Without Frontiers. A number of other organizations and individuals have come together to say: it’s an outrage, given China’s horrific human rights record, for them to be hosting the Olympics in 2022.
This is especially the case since they have been officially declared to be committing genocide against the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, among their many human rights atrocities, such as the 400 million women who have been forced into abortion under the one-child policy, the execution of prisoners to harvest their organs for transplant, terrible religious persecution of all religions.
You could just go on and on: the release of fentanyl and the coronavirus around the world. There are so many reasons that China does not deserve to host these games.
Mr. Jekielek: What do the games in Beijing in 2022 mean to the Chinese Communist Party in your mind? Why are they so keen on this?
Mrs. Littlejohn: Well, I think it’s very akin to the games in Berlin in 1936. It provides an opportunity for a brutal totalitarian regime to tout itself as being something that it’s not. It’s a propaganda bonanza that the regime will then use as a smoke screen for all the other atrocities that they are doing.
Beijing had good success with this in the 2008 Olympics. They made all kinds of promises in 2008 about how they’re going to improve their human rights record, and they’ve broken all of those promises to the point where now they’ve been officially designated as committing genocide.
They will say whatever they want you to believe. And it has no relationship with reality. You totally cannot trust anything that they have to say.
Mr. Jekielek: You organized this rally recently in front of the U.S. Capitol where a number of different dissidents spoke. I was there briefly and I ran into, let’s say a very, very seasoned D.C. politician. He basically echoed something that I’ve heard from a number of people in recent times: the idea of this complete boycott, it’s really a tall order. Why might it be like that?
Mrs. Littlejohn: Well, okay. Saying a complete boycott is a tall order means it’s hard to do. Does that mean we don’t do it? Oh, this is hard, we’re not gonna do it. What kind of character do we have when we say “never again?” Do we mean never again, or do we mean never again unless it’s China, or never again unless we have an economic tie with a country, or never again unless it actually costs us something.
What does it mean that we’ve officially designated them as committing genocide? What constitutes this genocide? We’re talking about rampant forced abortion, forced sterilizations, systematic rape. We’re talking about religious persecution interning between one and three million people, forced labor, the execution of prisoners to harvest their organs for transplant.
What does it take to say: we’re not gonna honor this country by participating in their Olympic games where they’re just going to be touting themselves as being a wonderful and great country?
Mr. Jekielek: It’s a great question, isn’t it? I mean, it’s almost hard to fathom. You are not new to this whole question of human rights issues in China. I’ve been observing your work with Women’s Rights Without Frontiers for years. For starters, maybe tell me what you do and have been doing with your organization.
Mrs. Littlejohn: Women’s Rights Without Frontiers is coming up on our 10th anniversary this year. So, we’re very excited about that. We started out basically as an advocacy organization because at the time—I’m an attorney. I graduated via law school. I practiced litigation for eight years.
And when I found out that women were being forcibly aborted and sterilized in China—and this is a long story, maybe we can get into it—I moved away from the practice of law, and I founded this organization. … This was in 2008, 2009. At that time, people believed that the one-child policy was voluntary. And of course, China was putting out their propaganda saying it’s voluntary.
Mr. Jekielek: Just briefly tell us what exactly what the one-child policy is.
Mrs. Littlejohn: The one-child policy was instituted in 1980 and continued until 2016, where it became the two-child policy, more recently the three-child policy. We can talk about that, but forced abortion is continuing under the three-child policy.
The one-child policy was instituted because China was experiencing a population explosion and they wanted to bring down the fertility rate. And so what they did is say that everybody can have one child. They enforced that through incredibly brutal forced abortion up to the ninth month of pregnancy.
Some of these forced abortions were so brutal that the women themselves died along with their full-term babies, forced sterilization, forced contraception, infanticide. And I had believed the Chinese propaganda that it was voluntary.
I knew that they had a one-child policy. I had never stopped to think how it was enforced until as an attorney, I represented a refugee who had been persecuted as a Christian and also forcibly sterilized under the one-child policy.
What I mean by that is that she was literally dragged out of her home, screaming and crying and pleading and held down to a table, cut open, and had her tubes tied without anesthesia. She said that the pain was like somebody was holding a blow torch inside of her.
And sure enough, she ended up with a chronic migraines, chronic abdominal pain, chronic back pain, from the time that happened to the time that I represented her, which was a lot of years. So, I think she’s permanently disabled from that operation.
That’s when I learned that it was coercively enforced. In my first testimony before Congress, a very, very brave man had gotten a lot of information out of China. His wife had suffered a late-term forced abortion. He and his wife both felt like they didn’t care whether they would die. They were gonna get the word out about this.
That’s the point where people get pushed to. In this surveillance state where you can’t really dissent, they were willing to die to get the word out. So he went out and he photographed and documented forced abortions and forced sterilizations in the villages around him, got it out to another human rights organization, which gave it to me.
I had this translated and that became the basis of my first congressional testimony, which basically blew out of the water the Chinese narrative that this was all voluntary.
Of course, Chen Guangcheng had been doing incredibly brave work prior to that, getting the word out as well. He was being detained and tortured and his whole family persecuted for that. Steve Mosher, before that, had done that in the eighties. Mine was one of the voices that helped bring this all out.
One of the documents that he was able to get out, I call Best Practices Infanticide. It was an email chain where Chinese OB-GYN were talking to each other about how best to make sure in a late-term forced abortion, that the baby would be born dead and not alive. It is like the most chilling document that I have ever seen.
That’s how we began. Then after a number of years of raising the visibility of this issue, and also I spent several years on an international campaign to help free Chen Guangcheng, I’ve got the idea of why can’t we help people in China to escape forced abortion and the also gendercide of the sex selective abortion of baby girls.
Just by providence, I know someone who has friends in China, and they are our network. Now we are like the only organization in the world where you can actually save baby girls in China. That’s called our Save a Girl Campaign. And what we do is we have a network of field workers that find out about women who are being pressured to abort or abandon their baby girls, or also who are just so impoverished that their baby girls really are at risk.
We go to the door and we say: congratulations on your daughter. Girls are as good as boys. We will give you a monthly stipend for a year to empower you to keep your daughter. We give them $25 a month, the equivalent in Yuan, and that’s enough. The money is enough for the woman to go back to her husband or her mother-in-law and say, “I can’t abort; I can’t abandon this baby girl. Look she’s a lucky girl. She’s bringing money into the family.”
We have saved about 300 baby girls in this way. We’ve also kept families together where the mother would have to go to the city and leave her baby with the grandmother, because they don’t have to have enough money. Just give them that amount of money so she can stay with her baby, keeping the family together.
Mr. Jekielek: And maybe if you can explain briefly and we know that in China, this ratio of boys to girls or men to women is the most stark, I think of any place in the world, and the one-child policy is responsible for that. Just explain, like how does this work? Like, why is it that maybe girls need to be saved in the first place?
Mrs. Littlejohn: There’s some preference in China, but it’s elsewhere as well. There’s a lot of places in Asia or even places in Eastern Europe or Central Europe where son preference is a problem. But the reason that China has the worst gender ratios in the world is because of the one-child policy. Allso the two-child policy and the three-child policy actually exacerbate gendercide.
Under the one-child policy, because of son preference, because the son is the one that carries on the family name, because the son is one that supports his parents in their old age, because the son is the one who does the burial and all the ancestral things that they do there, they want boys. And so, under the one-child policy, they figured if I’m gonna have only one kid, it’s got to be a boy.
Then they would abort the girls, to the extent now that there are between 30 and 40 million more men living in China than women. That also is a reason that China is one of the worst countries in the world in terms of sex trafficking.
Under the two-child policy, gendercide has continued because what has happened is that it’s very expensive to raise a kid in China. A lot of people really only want to have one child. If they’re gonna have a second child, they want it to be a boy.
There was an example in 2017, just a year after the two-child policy was instituted, where there was a husband who under the one-child policy had a girl [with his wife], so they thought they were one and done. They were fine with that. But then when the two-child policy came along, he said: let’s have a second kid, but let’s make sure it’s a boy. And he forced his wife to abort four baby girls in a year and then she died.
My concern about the three-child policy is that because couples in China are reluctant to have more children because of the expense, that the kinds of couples that are going to elect to have a third child, I think a lot of them might be couples who have two girls. Okay, we’ll have a third child, but we’re gonna make sure that one is a boy. I’ll be very surprised if the gender ratio for those third children is not heavily skewed towards boys.
Mr. Jekielek: Chilling, chilling things you’re talking about here, again hard to fathom. You did mention this one-child policy relationship with sex trafficking. I should give some credit where credit is due. I think you were the first to actually notice that connection, that relationship, I believe in testimony to the European Parliament. Tell me about that; that’s something that I don’t think a lot of people are aware of.
Mrs. Littlejohn: Well, I don’t know if I was the first, but I certainly made a big deal out of it. I remember going to a panel in D.C. This is a long time ago, maybe 2010 or 2009. It was a panel on international sex trafficking. At the end of they had Q and A, and I raised my hand. I said: what’s the relationship between international sex trafficking and China’s one-child policy? And the panelists just looked at me blankly.
I think there’s a very direct connection. And that’s what I testified about at the European Parliament. Because of the one-child policy, there’s domino effect that happens. You have forced abortion, gendercide, the sex-selective abortion of baby girls, which leads to this enormous gender imbalance in China, which then leads to human trafficking and sexual slavery.
China is one of the worst countries in the world in terms of trafficking women from all the surrounding countries as forced brides and sex slaves, and also from within China. That testimony was published in a book called, “Human Rights in China,” in connection with the Olympic games in 2008.
So actually that was 2008. Okay, that’s how I know what happened in that year. And now that’s the standard analysis. It’s just everywhere that because of the one-child policy, there’s gendercide and that’s leading to sex trafficking.
Mr. Jekielek: I covered the sex trafficking issue in general on this show a bit, but I don’t think I’ve ever covered it in the context of China and just like, can you expand a little bit on like, what the reality is?
Mrs. Littlejohn: The reality is that the China is desperate for more girls and women. Because there are fewer women, they’re sort of upwardly mobile. The women in the poor villages will go to the local town or the city because they can, and marry people that are of greater means.
So they have these things called bachelor villages, where the people living in that village are almost all men or elderly people. They’re called bare branches because they are the end of the family line; they’re not going to reproduce. That is a recipe for disaster.
The Chinese Communist Party basically does not enforce their laws about sex trafficking, which is why they ended up as a Tier 3 nation in the Trafficking in Persons Report, which is the worst. One of the key elements of a Tier 3 nation is not just that they have rampant trafficking, but that the government is not taking effective steps to counter it.
I believe that they’re not taking effective steps to counter it because they know that if they did, they would have an insurrection on their hands. I remember reading a story from one of the neighboring nations to China, where this woman was with her sister-in-law. This is a family member. She said to her, “Oh, I’ve got this great job for you in China; you can make a lot of money, send money home.”
She went with her sister-in-law, her sister-in-law gave her something in the car that she said was for motion sickness. When she ended up in China, she was shackled and raped and became a forced bride to somebody. And I don’t know, the grace of God, some kind of a miracle, she was able to escape with her son.
The man said to her, I don’t care if you leave, but you can’t take my son. … I think this was the Human Rights Watch Report. But she took the son and was in hiding when she was interviewed for this. But that’s a typical story of what happens to women in surrounding countries because of the one-child policy, gendercide, human trafficking connection in China.
Mr. Jekielek: I just wanna mention this briefly because this is another thing that maybe a lot of people aren’t aware of. The effect of the one-child policy has been this creation of a demographic hole also in China in general. A lot of people that are looking at it are just wondering, how is this gonna be resolved?
Mrs. Littlejohn: It’s not gonna be resolved. There’s no way they can fix it at this point. The situation is that China does not have too many people. It’s got too few women, and too few young people, which is why they’ve gone from a one-child policy to a two-child policy to a three-child policy.
I’m worried, given their coercive nature, that they’re going to start with forced pregnancies. That’s something that I don’t think can be discounted, just given the coercive nature of the regime.
Right now their population is heavily skewed towards the aging population. Their population is continuing to increase in number, but those are older people living longer. Even if every woman in China had 10 kids today, they’re not going to be able to help all those men that can’t find wives because these children are not going to be marriage age for 20 years. And it’s too late to help the elderly. So I don’t know what they’re going to do.
I think that this could be their downfall for economic reasons. Also their workforce is going down. They’re no longer the place where you can get the cheapest labor, because their numbers and their workforce is declining.
There is a demographic in China that people don’t really think about or talk about, which I call the invisible victims of the one-child policy, which is elderly widows. The family structure in China, traditionally, in the beautiful traditional culture of China, the elderly were venerated in the countryside, which is where my network is.
They would have large families because they were farming. There would be a situation where you’d have one couple that would have a large family, each of those kids would have large families. So that by the time that the original couple were elders, they would have an extended family that venerated them because of their age and their wisdom that could support them.
Now because of the one-child policy, these elderly couples don’t have people to support them. Senior suicide in China has skyrocketed 500 percent over the last 20 years in connection with a one-child policy. China has the highest female suicide rate of any country in the world, and in the Chinese countryside, which is where we are, three times the number of women as men are committing suicide.
So we have something called the Save a Widow Campaign. That’s like a sister campaign to the Save a Girl Campaign. In our area where our network already is, I asked the field workers if there are widows that need help and they said: yes, yes, they’re abandoned, they’re impoverished.
One of our widows was so poor that she didn’t eat two days a week; all she ate was salt. And she had got herself a rope to hang herself with when life got intolerable.
There’s a cultural shift because of the Chinese Communist Party, where instead of venerating seniors for their wisdom and for the way that they’ve poured their lives out for their families, now, anyone who doesn’t work is considered to be a burden.
Also something that people might not understand about China, the communist country, you would think they would have socialized medicine. No, you have to pay for medical care.
One of the widows, when her husband was dying, their daughter-in-law came and actually started berating them and going to the neighbors saying: why doesn’t he just kill himself, and save us the medical expenses. We’re all going to become homeless because of these medical expenses.
Then she pointed out another woman in their community who when she discovered she had breast cancer, she hung herself from the tree in the backyard as a way of saving her family the medical expenses. That was considered to be a noble act. That is the change in the culture in China.
We are going to these widows, and we are just saying to them, you’re a human being, you have infinite dignity, we care about you. We’re going to give you a monthly stipend for the rest of your life, just to show you that we care, and just to help you eat a little bit better or heat your little room in the winter.
These women are unbelievably grateful for this because they don’t have a family to support them. The government is not supporting them, at least not in any substantial way. We give them $25 a month, and we’re committed to doing that for the rest of their lives or for as long as we’re around. We’re gonna do that and help these widows.
Mr. Jekielek: I just have to say this, I mean, it’s incredible that you’re able to have this kind of an impact from outside of China into China. China under the regime is not very open to, let’s say, external forces having activity in the Chinese countryside.
Mrs. Littlejohn: Right, so the biggest secret in the organization is where our network is. We don’t tell anyone where our network is. My own board does not know where the network is, and our field workers are incredibly brave. Now when we say outside, the money comes from the outside, right? But the field workers are people from the area. So, it’s not like we have Americans over there.
Mr. Jekielek: Someone might notice, right?
Mrs. Littlejohn: Someone might notice. People say: how often do you go and visit your network? Never, because they would all be detained. If I went out there, the whole thing would be blown. And then people will ask for pictures of me holding Chinese babies.
Well, I can ask a Chinese friend of mine here to hold his or her baby, but I can’t go to China and hold the babies that we’re saving in China because it would blow the cover off of our network.
If anybody is a prayer person that’s listening to this, please pray for the safety of our network, please pray that God will continue to hide them under the shadow of his wing. These people are very, very, very brave, but they’re also very committed to the mission. They care about saving these girls.
They care about saving these widows, and they’re willing to put their freedom and possibly more on the line to do this work.
Mr. Jekielek: Just very briefly, since we’re here, how do people watching who might be interested learn more about your program?
Mrs. Littlejohn: Our website is womensrightswithoutfrontiers.org. It’s a long name, but if you go onto my website, on the upper right, there are two buttons. One says, “SAVE A GIRL!” One says, “SAVE A WIDOW!” You can click the button to save a girl and learn a lot more about that campaign, same with save a widow, and in both of those, we have a three minute video of the girls that we’re saving and of the widows that were saving.
You can see pictures of the actual girls and the widows that we’re saving and hear more about them. I hope you would find it inspiring. It is incredible that we’re able to do this.
Mr. Jekielek: We were talking about 2008, and you were already active in 2008 on the China issue. Now we’re at 2016, in some ways, many rights activists have been telling me that things have gone in the wrong direction as you suggested earlier.
A lot of people have gotten despondent and are not sure if there’s anything that can be done in the realm of China. Your thoughts here? I guess, a little bit about what keeps you going because you don’t strike me as terribly despondent.
Mrs. Littlejohn: I have my moments. When I feel like, “Oh my gosh, this is just too big for me,” I just look at the faces of the baby girls and the widows that we’re saving, and that keeps me going.
I take my inspiration from Mother Teresa, and I worked with her in 1988 for six weeks in Kalighat. Talk about a despondent situation. I worked with her in the Home for the Dying in Kalighat. She’s taking individual people off the street in Kalighat, and helping them, just loving them through their last days and moments.
She never was despairing because even though for every one person she picked up, there’s a million more that she was not able to pick up, what she said is: God does not call us to be successful; he calls us to be faithful. What I try to do is be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit about what I am called to do. And then I just try to do it to the best of my ability.
I just say: I know, God, this is a drop in the bucket, and it’s up to you. That’s what I do. I just try to be faithful to what I’m called to do and not look at the whole picture, because there are other people who are called to do all kinds of different aspects of this.
It’s not like I’m alone in this. You’re here, look what you’re doing. Seriously, I mean, The Epoch Times is having a major impact. Who is the inspiration behind that? Who are the army of journalists? All of you, all of us, are called to do our little part, and if we all stay together, then I think things really can change. I don’t think that any regime that is as evil and corrupt and no doubt hated by its own members can continue to stand.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, thank you for those kind words, Reggie. And of course, we’re going to keep reporting on all the realities of communist China, including exactly everything that you just talked about. You were very involved in the Chen Guangchen case, the blind activist lawyer who was working on issues very, very close to you, and you were kind of involved in helping him get to America, which is in itself a miraculous story.
Mrs. Littlejohn: I wouldn’t say that I was doing anything on the tactical level, but with respect to Chen Guangchen, when I read about his case, it absolutely broke my heart that this incredibly brave man and his equally brave wife, Yuan Weijing, together would go out into the fields at night where people were hiding.
People would leave their villages and hide in the fields because they had heard that there was going to be a strike hard campaign in their village that night.
He would go out there with them and interview them and document all the forced abortions, the forced sterilizations that were happening just in his area. He’s absolutely the bravest person I’ve ever met in my life and also his wife. And they’re both so humble.
But then when I found out that he had been detained, and he was being tortured and all of that, I spent years just going everywhere I could and telling anyone I could, raising the visibility of his campaign.
We did a sunglasses campaign where we had people from all over the world send pictures of themselves wearing sunglasses and this amazing artist put all these sunglasses photos together into an image of Chen Guangcheng. I don’t know how many congressional hearings I testified at and how many times on Voice of America.
But word went out that he had died. And it was believable because when he was released from prison into house arrest, he had I think it was dysentery that was untreated. Also they beat him and his wife terribly, and they were not allowing them to go out to buy food.
I felt in my spirit that he had not died. So, I went to Voice of America. I said, look, I know that you’ve heard that Chen Guangcheng has died. I believe in my heart that he has not died, but I believe that he is near death. And I believe that the only way for him to survive is to escape, and escape is impossible because his village had been shut off. He had 24 hour surveillance.
I asked people to fast and pray for Chen Guangcheng to escape. And when he did, everyone would know that God had done it because it would be a complete miracle. Sure enough, he did escape and everyone, I don’t care what their faith or lack of faith was, everybody said that was a miracle, and it was a miracle.
Mr. Jekielek: It is, I mean, to all of us watching this, it definitely looked like a miracle.
Mrs. Littlejohn: The day that he arrived in the United States was probably one of the three happiest days of my life, because this is something you don’t usually [see]. When somebody raises the visibility of a case of somebody in a country like China, nothing happens or they die, or like the Liu Xiaobo case was so heartbreaking.
How many people were raising the visibility of that case of Guangcheng: where is he? That’s the way it usually goes. It doesn’t usually go with somebody arriving in the United States, and you can greet them with this huge hug and they become like your best friend.
Mr. Jekielek: We won’t go into the details here. Chen wrote about it in his book, how he escaped and so forth, but suffice it to say, he got out from under close scrutiny of many, many, state security guards and so forth. Ultimately with some support inside, he made it out to America against all odds.
As we finish up here, what do you think the likelihood is that there will be any kind of a boycott of the 2022 Olympics, the full boycott that you’re advocating for, given the current realities?
Mrs. Littlejohn: A diplomatic boycott has broad bipartisan support within the United States, and also in the European Union, they have been voting for some kind of a diplomatic boycott. But I don’t think that’s good enough, because if the diplomats don’t show up, yes, that is a slap in the face to the Chinese Communist Party, but as long as the athletes show up, then they still can have their great opening ceremony and all the hoopla and all the energy, and all of the media attention that that they’re going to use to legitimize their regime.
And who knows what they’re gonna do next? If they continued to commit genocide against the Uyghers after the 2008 Olympics, what are they gonna do after the 2022? Are they gonna invade Taiwan? Who knows what they’re gonna do.
The Chinese Communist Party, we’ve been talking about the things that they’ve been doing internally to their own people, but they’ve been doing horrible things to the world as well. They have unleashed the coronavirus or the Wuhan virus on the world.
They’re flooding our own shores with fentanyl. I have a friend who had two sons who died of fentanyl. They have stolen billions and billions of dollars in intellectual property. They are trying to take over the South China Sea. They are threatening to invade Taiwan.
In my opinion, not only should they not be hosting the Olympic games. They should be declared to be a transnational criminal organization. We should end all diplomatic and economic ties with them. And we should start prosecuting the people who are responsible for these atrocities.
Mr. Jekielek: A lot of our audience members write to us when they see interviews like this, and they want to know what can we do? What can the individual viewer of “American Thought Leaders” or Epoch TV do?
Mrs. Littlejohn: Well, one thing I would encourage people to do is to get on the genocidegames.org website. Number one, you can sign the petition. We would like to have 100,000 signatures because the more people who sign, the more we can go to the International Olympics Committee, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and say, look, you need to move or boycott the games. You need to move the games, or we’re going to espouse a boycott.
And then if you’re interested, if you have enough passion about this, we just had this rally in D.C. We could have a rally in New York. We could have a rally in Colorado Springs, which is where the United States committee is, and even Los Angeles.
If there are people who want to actually have a rally about this, that really helps raise the visibility of the issue and so they should contact me and say that they’re interested in actually hosting a rally.
Mr. Jekielek: Any final thoughts as we finish up here?
Mrs. Littlejohn: The Chinese Communist Party, I think, should be banned from the Olympics. I mean, South Africa was banned from the Olympics for 24 years because of apartheid, because they would not allow black athletes and white athletes to compete together in the games.
But I don’t think they’re even are any Uyghurs athletes or Southern Mongolian athletes. They’re aren’t even part of the system that would enable you to compete in the Olympic games. It’s not that they’re not allowed to compete; it’s that they’re being killed. Isn’t that enough to ban China from the Olympics?
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Reggie Littlejohn, it’s such a pleasure to have you on.
Mrs. Littlejohn: Thank you so much Jan, it’s an honor to be here.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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