CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Second child is still penalised

HONG KONG (SE): The nuanced numerical adjustment that the government of the People’s Republic of China made to the One Child Policy on January 1 this year, transforming it into a Two Child Policy, has not eased the burden carried by second children born prior to that date.

Observers have pointed out that rather than representing a policy change to the Family Planning Law, the numerical readjustment is just that, as other aspects, including the crippling fines that are incurred by parents who transgress the numerical limit, remain.

The invisible second children born prior to the change still haunt a shadowy world where their existence is not recognised. It is estimated that there are at least 13 million of them in the country.

They are denied access to the precious household registration (houkou), which is a passport to public services from education to health care, and are forced to live as shadows hiding from the sunshine of their own country.

Although China says that registering a child for the hukou is a basic right of every citizen and has prohibited local governments from imposing conditions that prevent registration, the situation on the ground is quite a different story.

The numerical adjustment of 1 January 2016 made no change to the status of second children born before that date, so a hefty fine has to be paid by the household in order to access that basic right of every citizen.

Those who cannot afford the amount, which for a working family would amount to five or six times their annual income, even though the amount varies from place to place, as it can be set by local governments.

Originally called a social maintenance fee, the name has gone through several euphemistic changes and is now known as the unplanned birth fee.

Houkou registration is difficult to transfer and usually impossible, so internal migrant workers find it difficult to take their children with them when they leave rural areas to work in the megacities, creating the problem of parentless children left behind in the care of relatives.

In an article published in Caixin on February 22, Sheng Menglu and Lou Ruiyao quote Yang Wenzhuang, the deputy director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, as saying on January 11 that rules cannot just be flipped like a pancake.

Nevertheless, some jurisdictions place a stricter interpretation on the rules than others, yet legal experts argue that there is no basis in law for these variations.

It is generally believed to be a money-making racket for local governments that is supported by spurious arguments, including that excusing anyone from paying today, would be unfair to those who have paid in the past.

But mostly it is a concession to the wealthy, as they can afford to pay the fee and have the freedom to choose how many children they will have, whereas the poor have their reproductive rights stripped from them.

 

Some pigs still remain more equal than others.

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