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Outcry over blunders of China’s one-child policy
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China is considering changes to its one-child policy, with government advisory bodies drafting proposals – a decision relished by many, according to media reports last month.
However, two independent incidents in Guangdong and Shandong reported by mainland media shed light on the country’s questionable execution of the policy.
The strange link between one-child policy and a university restaurant
In Panyu District, Guangzhou, the local Food and Drug Administration department requested the owner of a campus restaurant at SunYat-Sen University to present the university principal’s Planned Parenthood certificate (official proof of birth control) in order to obtain a licence extension and stay in business, Southern Metropolis Daily reported on Tuesday.
“They are two completely different things! The university principal’s Planned Parenthood certificate is his private business. What does it have to do with our restaurant? It makes no sense,” said the food vendor.
Panyu Food and Drug Administration issued a legal guideline on August 30 which specified that the Planned Parenthood certificate of the legal representative is required in the application and extension procedure of a Food Hygiene Licence or Pharmaceutical Trade Licence.
Government officials later explained that the policy is to “ensure smooth sailing for the local Population and Family Planning Bureau”, the government department overlooking issues related to the one-child policy.
The requirement is, however, not included in China’s Food Hygiene Law at the national level.
The restaurant filed a written report to appeal the case. Panyu Food and Drug Administration relaxed the requirement but maintained that in lieu of the official Planned Parenthood certificate, an official seal-stamped certificate proving compliance of the principal to the one-child policy was still necessary.
Many Weibo users lamented the Panyu government’s illogical request. “So how powerful is the Population and Family Planning Bureau, anyway? How many governmental departments is it able to hijack?” asked one user.
“Government officials, big and small, are all thinking about how to stay in power, get promoted, and make more money. They do not care about babies or families,” commented another.
Yet another took a satirical approach and opined, “More bureaucratic procedures help get things done. How ‘harmonious’ is that!”
‘Forced bundling’ policy to pressure birth control operation
In Mudan district, Heze city, a new born baby was denied household registration, or hukou, China’s official record for an individual’s residency status. His mother has to get an intra-uterine device (IUD) fitted first, officials said.
IUD is the most widely used form of reversible contraception in China. It is a highly effective method of birth control, but there are still potential risks associated with its use.
“Our son is a legitimate first-born child in compliance with the law, and we have completed all required documents. There is no reason to deny him a hukou,” said Mr Liu, the father.
His efforts to appeal the case with the city’s Public Security Bureau went in vain, as bureau staff blocked the door and hung up during a phone conversation, according to Dazhong Daily.
Liu believes that forced bundling of IUD operations with the hukou system is a violation of citizens’ rights. “You can’t amputate a man's hand because he might become a thief some day. The same applies to us – you can’t force my wife to have the [IUD] operation because she may potentially give birth to a second child,” he said.
In fact, China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission have made it clear that the fitting of IUDs is not a necessary pre-condition for new born babies to obtain hukou, according to national laws and regulations.
The forced bundling practice, however, is virtually an unspoken rule in many Chinese cities. Such a policy might be in violation of Article 19 of China’s Population and Family Planning Law, which specifies that citizens are able to obtain hukou unconditionally, a lawyer points out.
Shandong province is notorious for human right abuses and brutal implementation of laws and regulations. The nephew of prominent human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng was jailed earlier in the month by a Shandong court, which invoked widespread condemnation at home and abroad.
Weibo users, in response to a forced late abortion this year, expressed fury at the incident, “Our society forces mothers to undergo IUD operations; it forces labour induction; and it forces late abortions. Is the one-child policy aimed at persecuting the mothers of our nation?” one asked.
Another, frustrated about China’s negligence of human rights, said, “I don’t even know if it’s safe for me to comment anymore.”
Many others pointed out that forced bundling practices are commonplace in various Chinese cities. “It is basically all over Shandong province, as well as many other provinces across the country! Local Population and Family Planning Bureaus should be held accountable for such blatant administrative violations!” a Weibo user opined.