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China Orders New Drive to Prevent Unapproved Births

February 16, 1988|DAVID HOLLEY | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING — After several years of relatively relaxed enforcement of China's family planning policies, officials Monday announced a new crackdown aimed at preventing unapproved births.

Liang Jimin, director of the State Family Planning Commission's general office, said at a press conference that the action is necessary because China is in the midst of a baby boom.

He outlined a series of steps aimed at increasing the pressure on officials and families to adhere to China's decade-old policy of one child per couple.

Local government cadres "who implement the family planning policies well will get benefits," Liang said. "Those who do not do well will not get benefits, and will even be punished."

Women will be encouraged to sign contracts promising to have only one child, or in some cases work units will sign contracts containing specific birth targets, Liang said.

"Grass-roots organizations will be required to sign contracts with child-bearing women, and various social insurances should be provided for those who have done family planning," Liang went on.

He said that permission to bear a second child may be granted to some women in the countryside in exceptional cases, but generally speaking there should be strict controls against second births.

China's population policy allows exceptions in cases where a first-born child is handicapped. Members of minority groups, who live primarily in underpopulated border regions, are also allowed to have more than one child.

In recent years, officials have sought to use heavy fines to discourage unauthorized births. But as rural economic reforms have brought new prosperity to the countryside, this threat has lost some of its deterrent force.

Liang said that 22 million babies were born in 1987, helping to boost the population by the end of the year to 1.07 billion. The population growth rate, which had been lowered to 1.1% per year in 1985, was 1.4% in 1986 and 1987, he said, but China still hopes to be able to limit its population to no more than 1.2 billion in the year 2000.

The increased number of births over the last two years largely reflects an earlier baby boom that began in 1962, he said. This year China will have 297 million women of child-bearing age, an increase of 8 million over last year's total, he said.

Earlier Marriages

The current baby boom also reflects other factors, including earlier marriages, Liang said. Unlike the past, when most women were in their late 20s before giving birth, most women are now having children while between the ages of 20 and 24, he said.

Women of child-bearing age will be urged to use contraceptive methods more effectively, Liang said, and population education will also be emphasized in high schools.

In recent years, some critics in the United States and other countries have charged that China's family planning policies often led to forced abortions. Chinese officials have insisted that voluntary compliance is achieved through education and a variety of incentives and disincentives and that women are not forced to have abortions.

Shen Guoxiang, deputy director of the Family Planning Commission office, who also spoke at the press conference, was asked whether placing greater responsibility on local cadres to enforce the one-child limit might lead to forced abortions.

No Abortion Indicator

"We are not going to take the number of abortions done as one of the indicators" of whether cadres have done their jobs well, Shen replied.

Liang also announced that China will conduct a survey of more than 2 million people later this year to gather more accurate information about patterns of contraceptive use, fertility rates and population growth rates.

"The purpose is to enable us to gather reliable data that will be helpful in understanding the influences that such elements as population policy, population shifts and economy and culture have on the birthrate," he said.

China announced last month that five provinces--Zhejiang, Guangdong, Fujian, Qinghai and Yunnan--had recently issued regulations aimed at enforcing stricter family planning rules among self-employed persons and laborers who have moved to cities from the countryside.

"Supervision of the size of their families has been inadequate because of their mobility and a lack of proper regulatory measures," the official China Daily reported in an article about the new regulations.

"Priority in granting (private business) licenses and job opportunities will be given to those who marry late and have only one child. Those who have an unplanned second, third or fourth child will be fined at least 1,500 yuan (about $400) for each unplanned baby."

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