By MARK MCDONALD
BANGKOK — When the photograph was posted online, the reaction inside China was immediate, massive and angry.
In no time, there were more than a million page views.
In the photo, 23-year-old Feng Jianmei lies on a single hospital bed.She is dressed in periwinkle blue pajamas, and her long dark hair covers her face.
Next to her, naked on a rectangle of plastic, reclined as if napping, or perhaps stretching, is her bloody seven-month-old fetus, which has just been forcibly aborted.
The baby is dead.
New details have now emerged about the abortion, and the incident continues to lead many Chinese to call for a scrapping of China’s so-called one-child policy.
Others have expressed regret and outrage over the harsh enforcement of the policy, which varies widely across China, even as they defend the plan’s original intent — that an unchecked birth rate would threaten the country’s economic gains and people’s rising standard of living.
The gruesome abortion incident was cast this weekend against China’s successful launching of its first female astronaut.
The sad irony of the two women’s situations was not lost on Chinese netizens, and one poignant tweet was quoted by the blog Tea Leaf Nation: “We can send a female taikonaut out into space, and we can also forcefully abort the fetus of a seven-months-pregnant woman from the countryside. The stark contrast between the fates of two women, 33-year-old Liu Yang and 22-year-old [sic] Feng Jianmei, is the clearest illustration of the torn state of the this nation. Glory and dreams illuminate disgrace and despair, cutting-edge technology exists alongside the shameless trampling of the people. Rockets fly into the heavens while morals reach new lows, the nation rises while the people kneel in submission. This is how the best of times meets the worst of times.”
Some space analysts questioned why China appeared to be rushing the training of a female astronaut. Male astronauts typically train for a dozen years or more before going up.
The two women in the astronaut corps — both of whom started as military cargo pilots — were picked just two years ago.
“So why the apparent urgency to send an inexperienced woman into orbit, on this high profile flight?” asked Tony Quine, a blogger who closely follows the Chinese program, particularly astronaut selection.
“Perhaps there has simply been political pressure to send a woman into orbit? Women’s Groups in China have been lobbying for a woman in space since 2004.”