Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chinese hiding three million babies a year

"I am the biggest offender against the one-child policy in China!" laughed Fu Yang, a wiry and energetic 47-year-old man, as he fidgeted and poured tea. "I had seven daughters in just ten years."

Mr Fu and his rather more reserved wife are among the millions of Chinese parents who risk threats, fines and even imprisonment in order to defy the country's one-child policy. The couple, who now live a prosperous life in a small village outside the southern city of Xiamen, have had to flee across three provinces and hide their children with friends in the past.

Since 1978, China’s government has limited each couple to one child in a bid to stem the growth of the world's largest population. To police the law, neighbourhood committees keep a close eye out for any pregnancies, and Family Planning officials have the power to force women to have abortions and sterilisations, as well as to monitor their contraception.

The policy does not apply to everyone. In the countryside, parents are allowed to try for a second child if their first is a girl. Couples who are both single children themselves are also allowed to have two children. A growing number of rich Chinese also pay fines in order to have a second child.

But for parents who do not comply with the law, the penalties can be harsh. Workers in state-owned companies can lose their jobs. Others face huge fines, the possible demolition of their homes, or even a prison term.

"When they eventually found out I had seven daughters, they tried to tear down our house, but fortunately I have good connections: my uncle is the head of the village," said Mr Fu. "They also wanted to fine me 600,000 yuan (£60,000). But I refused to pay them. Eventually they knocked down just a small part of my old house and I paid them 2,000 yuan," he added.

Mr Fu said that he knew several other people in his village who also had more than one child and that he had already encouraged his eldest daughter, who has recently born him a grandson, to continue to procreate. "I told her: no matter what the cost, she should have more kids," he said.

In millions of other cases, families are also prepared to take the risk and break the law, according to research by Liang Zhongtang, a demographer and former member of the expert committee of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission.

Examining China’s census figures, Mr Liang came across discrepancies that proved the subterfuge. “In 1990, the national census recorded 23 million births. But by the 2000 census, there were 26 million ten-year-old children, an increase of three million,” he said. "Normally, you would expect there to be fewer ten-year-olds than newborns, because of infant mortality," he added.

His findings suggest that the one-child policy may not have the grim consequences that have been widely predicted. According to China’s own figures, the traditional desire among Chinese families to have a boy, coupled with the one-child regime, should produce a surfeit of 30 million men by 2020, with many parents allegedly using ultrasound to guarantee the sex of their child.

2 comments:

  1. I've been praying that the surplus of boys have conversions and become priests.

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  2. Catherine KensoraJune 6, 2010 at 1:04 AM

    Great story, however I think Fu Yang is much wealthier and better connected than the average Chinese. Thus he was able to find ways around the one child policy. Most Chinese are not as fortunate and thus the fate of their daughters is not a happy ending.

    Catherine Kensora---mom to two daughters from China.

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