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China will not scrap its family planning programme

ROME (Agencies): “Amid conflicting news reports over changes to the one-child family planning policy in China, disturbing reports continue to arrive about serious abuses of human rights,” Father John Flynn says in the Huffington Post.

He quotes the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as reporting on December 31 last year that a Chinese obstetrician is on trial, accused of stealing newborn babies and selling them to child traffickers.

The report says that Zhang Shuxia is accused of selling seven babies and of telling the parents their babies were sick, finally persuading them to give the children to her.

On December 30, Radio Free Asia reported that four Uyghur women in China’s north-western region of Xinjiang have been forced by authorities to undergo abortions—one of them nine months into her pregnancy.

It says that these latest cases were among six forced abortions that had been planned in recent days in the Hotan prefecture of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, home to some 10 million mostly Muslim Uyghurs.

Memettursun Kawul, the father of one of the aborted children, told Radio Free Asia that he was willing to pay the fine of 50,000 to 100,000 yuan ($63,978 to $127,957). However his offer was refused.

Father Flynn then quotes Reuters as reporting on September 19 that family planning rules are also being exploited by local officials for their own profit. A national audit found that US$260 million ($2.01 billion) had been levied illegally.

The family planning restrictions have also led to kidnappings of young children, mainly boys, who are sought after by families who want a male heir.

On December 2, the BBC published a moving account about a young man who, at the age of 28 was reunited with his family, after having been kidnapped when he was five-years-old.

In 1990, Luo Gang, from Yaojia village, Sichuan province, was abducted and sold to a family in Sanming, 1,500 kilometres away.

“The report affirmed that China’s one-child policy and lax adoption laws have encouraged an underground market for trafficked children,” Father Flynn continues. 

He quotes the BBC as saying, “Earlier this year a police chief in Fujian claimed over 10,000 children had been trafficked in 2012 in his province alone.”

Father Flynn also looks at another report from August 5 claiming the parents were informed that police had rescued a baby boy allegedly sold by a maternity doctor to another family.

“Then, on July 6, they published news about the Chinese officials breaking up two child-trafficking gangs, arresting 802 people and freeing 181 children,” Father Flynn says.

“A traditional preference for male heirs in China has created a thriving market for baby boys,” he comments.

He adds that family planning restrictions have also led to a veritable massacre of innocent lives, quoting the Financial Times as saying on March 15 last year that Chinese doctors have performed more than 330 million abortions since the restrictions on children were put in place more than 40 years ago.

The Financial Times claims that since 1971 doctors have performed 336 million abortions and 196 million sterilisations, in addition to inserting 403 million intrauterine devices, often without the consent of the women involved.

Reuters reported on November 19 last year that in terms of future policy it was announced that families would be allowed to have two children.

Father Flynn suggests that the key element to focus on is that the current family planning policy is increasingly seen as harmful to the economy.

“Supposedly, if one of the spouses of a couple is an only child then they will be allowed to have two children,” he notes. “Nevertheless, many details are lacking and a number of commentators have expressed doubts about whether there has been a substantial change to government policy.”

The Wall Street Journal joined the conversation on November 15, noting, “Companies manufacturing or operating in China have already seen their profits diminish as the supply of labour—seen as China’s most competitive advantage in attracting foreign companies to its turf—tightens, pushing up wages.”

Father Flynn adds that it seems then that there is a conflict between nationalistic interests, ideology and economic considerations.

“China’s working-age population—those aged 15 to 64—will shrink drastically,” the Wall Street Journal commented. “From 2010 to 2030, China’s labour force is expected to lose 67 million workers.”

The journal had already reported that according to two Citigroup economists, Nathan Sheets and Robert Sockin, China’s deteriorating demographics are likely to trim 3.25 percentage points off China’s annual growth rate between 2012 and 2030.


“The question remains then whether there will be any major change in China’s family planning policies,” Father Flynn notes, pointing out that on December 29 the British newspaper, The Independent, published an article in which it quoted a statement by Chi Wanchun, a standing committee member of the National People’s Congress, as saying, “Easing the one-child policy does not mean an end to family planning.”

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