China to limit population to 1.6 billion

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at SPAMbom4.vsnl.net.in
Fri Dec 22 17:59:18 MST 2000


Wednesday
20 December 2000

China to limit population to 1.6 billion
BEIJING: China said Tuesday it would continue enforcing its one-child policy
to limit its huge population to 1.6 billion by 2050, but also admitted the
policy had led to abuses such as forced abortions.
Zhang Weiqing, director the State Family Planning Commission, told reporters
at the launch of a population policy white paper that China had little
choice but to continue with the 20-year-old practice.
However he accepted there were problems with enforcement, and for the first
time he held out the prospect of incentives for families who stick by the
rules rather than just punishments for transgressors.
"It would be unthinkable for a state which accounts for one fifth of the
world's population not to have this family planning program," said Zhang.
"China would forever stay in poverty and the poverty of China will be a
disaster for the world."
Zhang said the policy had led to forced abortions as well as selective
abortion of female foetuses by couples who preferred sons, which has in turn
led to a high ratio of 111.3 newborn boys to 100 newborn girls.
And in some cases the policy had led to infanticide, he said.
"China is a country in which the relevance of several thousand years of
feudal society is still extensively felt and in traditional Chinese
thinking, men are more important than women," Zhang said.
"This kind of ideaology has led to the abandonment of baby girls at birth
and people are also making use of modern technologies to have selective
abortions to get rid of unwanted baby girls," he said.
He confirmed one recent case in which three family planning workers in the
central Chinese city of Wuhan were arrested on suspicion of causing the
death of a newborn baby.
The baby, the fourth child of a peasant couple, was reportedly drowned in a
rice paddy.
Zhang said the case was an isolated incident and that China was in the
process of setting up rules to regulate the work of family planning workers
to prevent such incidents.
"We've always been opposed to coercion in these cases and we are extremely
opposed to induced abortion ... Through this (Wuhan case) we've learned
serious lessons," Zhang said.
China's population, which stands at around 1.26 billion, is expected to grow
to 1.33 billion by 2005, 1.4 billion by 2010 and peak at 1.6 billion by
2050, according to the white paper.
"The population growth will continue for a prolonged period of time, with an
annual net increase of over 10 million in the next decade or so, which will
exert great pressure on the economy, society, resources, environment and
sustained development," the document said.
The white paper said the one-child policy had succeeded in helping China
avoid more than 300 million births.
The birth rate and natural growth rate (the balance of deaths to births)
decreased from 33.43 per cent and 25.83 per cent in 1970 to 15.23 per cent
and 8.77 per cent in 1999, respectively, according to the paper.
The document, while arguing the importance of controlling the population to
raise the living standards of Chinese citizens, also showed the government
recognises the problem of focusing too much on sanctions in the past.
Such emphasis on punishment has led to militant tactics by family planning
workers including forced abortions and the razing of homes of couples who
violate the policy.
Incentives will now be offered to couples to have one child, including
"tangible benefits" such as bonuses, retirement funds and a stronger social
security system, according to the white paper.
Peasants, a majority of whom still prefer to have sons, will be given
preferential treatment when dividing land to build houses and employment if
they stick to the policy, the document said.(AFP)
For reprint rights:Times Syndication Service
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