03/22/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing using violence to enforce its one child policy

More and more people complain that public officials are persecuting those who have "illegal" children. The government celebrates good results, but experts are critical of official figures, which are said to underestimate the real situation.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Mainland China intends to continue its 'One Child' policy in order to pursue its economic development. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the policy has been successful in slowing the growth of the population but has also favoured its aging. Other experts have questioned though the reliability of official data whilst, more and more Chinese are making complaints against public officials for the violence they inflict on families with more than one child.

The mainland's population has risen by 3.2 per cent over the past five years to reach 1.306 billion, according to the NBS's national mini-census conducted in November. But the overall trend shows that the population is getting increasingly older. In fact, the number of people aged 60 years or more rose by 0.76 per cent compared to the number of children aged up to 14 years which fell by 2.62 per cent.

In terms of the gender ratio, the census found there were 106.3 men for every 100 women, a drop of 0.44 per cent from five years ago, with 51.53 per cent of the population male and 48.47 per cent female.

Another finding showed that the migrant population rose by 8.3 per cent over the period to 147 million, with the number of people who moved to the cities rising by 6.77 per cent.

With urban families allowed only one child and rural families, two, since 1978, China's birth rate has fallen from 5.83 children per couple in the early 1970s to 2.1 children in 1990, and now 1.8 per cent.

The central government has set a 2010 population target to 1.37 billion. This has led to a high abortion and female infanticide rates since families still prefer baby boys. But without this policy the nation would have had 400 million more people according to Zhang Weiqing, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission.

For Mr Zhang, the policy must be upheld to prevent the depletion of resources and make sure that development is sustainable. Never the less, the government has to intervene to stop selective abortions in favour of boys.

Despite public statements, many families, particularly in the countryside, do not register all their children and so official figures are not very reliable. Many experts believe that population growth has been much greater—by tens of millions—and that in many areas the male-to-female ratio is 120 to 100.

Increasingly also, people are coming forward with stories of violence by the authorities against families. Family planning officials in Linyi, Shandong province, are accused of resorting to violence against families with "illegal" children, this according to China University of Political Science and Law lecturer Teng Biao and blind activist Chen Guangcheng.

Just yesterday, family planning officials have been accused of stealing 12 children from villages in Gaopiong County, Hunan province, over the past four years.

Many experts have also pointed out that this practice tends to affect the poor more than the rich. (PB)

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