Monday November 2, 2015
One-child rule gone, but scars will linger
By Edward Wong, International New York Times
China's gender ratio is at 117 boys for every 100 girls. By 2020, it will have an around 30 million bachelors
Three years after she became a national symbol of the abuses of China’s strict family planning policy, Feng Jianmei finally had a second daughter in August. Feng had a stillborn child in 2012 after local officials in Shaanxi province induced labour seven months into her pregnancy.
A supporter of Feng posted a photograph of her and the bloody foetus online, igniting nationwide outrage and leading to the firing of some officials. Even after that, though, Feng’s husband was beaten on the orders of local officials, who also led farmers in a march to denounce the family as “traitors.”
On Friday morning, less than a day after the Chinese government announced a shift from its decades-long one-child rule to a two-child policy, Feng’s husband reflected on their ordeal. “The tragedy that happened to us was because we didn’t have a permit,” the husband, Deng Jiyuan, said in a telephone interview. “I think it’s a good thing that everyone is allowed to have two children now. That is how the policy should always have been, from the very beginning.”
The decision to end the one-child policy came in dull, bureaucratic language. “Comprehensively implement a policy that couples can have two children, actively taking steps to counter the ageing of the population,” the Communist Party said in a communiqué on Thursday.
Those flat words, and their allusion to spurring economic growth, provided the official rationale for transforming a policy that has left cradles empty and hearts hollow across China, scarring generations of families.
The human rights abuses have included forced sterilisations and abortions, the killing of infants and the sale of children. So abhorrent are the practices that the US government grants refugee status to Chinese citizens who say they face persecution because of coercive family planning, making it easier for those people to get asylum.
Feng’s case was extraordinary in that it seized the attention of many Chinese and galvanised calls, including from officials and policymakers, to end the one-child system. But what she suffered was in many ways typical of the practices that spread like a poison throughout the Chinese governance system, from the central government down to the village level, as officials sought to enforce the policy adopted in 1979.
From the start, officials across China were told that population control was a priority, and that their jobs and career prospects, as well as those of colleagues, could depend on whether they met the targets.
The bitter consequences of the policy go well beyond abuses by officials. Some parents, with their traditional preference for male heirs, have used abortion and infanticide to ensure they have a son, and the ratio is now about 117 boys born for every 100 girls. By 2020, China will have an estimated 30 million bachelors – a situation so dire that one economist has proposed that a wife should have multiple husbands.
“The gender ratio is a result of the policy,” Liang Zhongtang, 68, an early adviser to senior officials on family planning who advocated a two-child policy decades ago..
And with an average rate of 1.6 births per woman, China is not replacing its population, now at 1.4 billion. The elderly will lack caretakers. The slowing economy is already reflecting the effects of the planning.
“This policy has had such a big impact on China’s social development, bigger than the Cultural Revolution,” said Yang Zhizhu, a law scholar at the China Youth University of Political Studies in Beijing, who was fined and removed from teaching in 2010 after he and his wife had a second child.
“It’s ruined the demographic structure, both the age and gender structure, and it’s also altered Chinese people’s thinking so that young people are unwilling to bear and raise children.”
Critics say that until the system is abolished entirely, the abuses will continue. Parents with more than two children are still at risk. Such was the case with Pan Chunyan, a shop owner in Fujian province who was seized from her store in 2012 when she was almost eight months pregnant with her third child. Local officials took her to a hospital, where a nurse injected a drug to induce a stillbirth as scores of thugs prevented family members from entering.
“It was the most painful thing that ever happened to me,” Pan said in a telephone interview on Friday. “I can’t even think about having another baby. My baby was so grown. He was a life. He used to kick in my belly all the time.”
The one-child policy originated with a family planning policy group under the State Council, China’s Cabinet, that was established in 1973, said Liang. The government had for years been encouraging citizens to have fewer children. But in 1979, party leaders, under the group’s advice, took a bold step, embracing the new approach.
Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping, the leaders who succeeded Mao Zedong, and other top party officials “all believed the huge population was the major setback in achieving a better economy,” Liang said. After they enacted the policy, he said, “it spread throughout the country quickly.”
Five years later, Liang, a population scholar at the Shanxi Academy of Social Sciences, wrote a letter to Hu Yaobang, then the party’s general secretary, arguing that if families were allowed to have two children, the population could still be kept to 1.2 billion by 2000. He proposed a pilot project in Shanxi, which was approved.
The project was carried out in secret for deca-des and ultimately showed that China’s birthrate would have declined naturally. But it never spr-ead because of ignorance and opposition from central family planning officials, Liang said.
Forced sterilisation across China, the mainstream policy took hold. Families not exempt from the one-child rule had to pay huge fines if they were found in violation. Employees of the state were fired, and party members were expelled. Some families secretly had “black” children – ones never registered at birth. In cities, officials erected billboards that showed beaming couples with a single angelic child. Signs in the countryside, where farmers wanted more children, tended to be harsher. One example: “Refuse to have an abortion and you will have your house demolished and lose your cattle.”
Strong-willed activists have emerged to challenge the practices. The most prominent is Chen Guangcheng, a blind man in Shandong province who was imprisoned by county officials for documenting cases of forced sterilisation and abortions and helping organise legal resistance. Chen’s persecution resulted in his flight from house arrest to the US Embassy in Beijing in 2012 and, ultimately, his departure from China.
That was the same year that the cases of Feng and Pan emerged and angered many people, as photographs of them in hospitals circulated online. Even Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Global Ti-mes, a nationalistic, state-run newspaper, called what Feng had endured “barbaric” in a microblog post, though he also said, “Family planning has served China rather than harmed it.”
The case for change had already been building among scholars and policymakers. In 2013, the party announced that couples in which at least one partner was an only child could have two children without penalty. Then, on Thursday, the two-child policy became the norm.
“What do I think about the new policy?” Pan asked. “I think it’s absurd that the state controls how many babies people have. Later came the time they wanted to control the population, and it became ‘one is enough.’ Now they say you can have two.”
Monday November 2, 2015
2-child policy only after Parliament approval: China
Beijing: China's top family planning authority has stressed that its local affiliates must implement the current one-child policy until a new policy allowing all couples to have two children goes into effect after being ratified by legislators.
Local authorities in each province should not carry out the two-child policy "wilfully," the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) said, refuting claims by one local official that the new policy was effective as soon as it was announced, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
"Those pregnant with a second child will not be punished as of today," Zhan Ming, deputy director of the provincial health and family planning commission in central China's Hunan Province, was quoted as saying by Hunan Daily on October 30.
The Communist Party of China announced the abolishment of its decades-old one-child policy at the close of a key meeting on October 29, in an attempt to balance population development and offset the burden of an aging population.
According to a communique released after the plenum, a final plan for the policy change will be ratified by the annual session of China's National People's Congress, (NPC).
The NHFPC estimated that about 90 million families may qualify for the new two-child policy, which would help raise the population to an estimated 1.45 billion by 2030.
China, the world's most populous nation, had 1.37 billion people at the end of 2014.
The one-child policy was introduced in the late 1970s to rein in the surging population by limiting most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two children, if the first child born was a girl.
The policy was later relaxed to say that any parents could have a second child if they were both only children.
It was further loosened in November 2013, with its current form stipulating that couples are allowed to have two children if one of them is an only child.