A researcher has discovered that as many as three million Chinese babies are hidden by their parents every year in order to get around the country's one-child policy.
According to research carried out by Liang Zhongtang, a demographer and former member of the expert committee of China's National Population and Family Planning Commission, "In 1990, the national census recorded 23 million births. But by the 2000 census, there were 26 million ten-year-old children, an increase of three million. Normally, you would expect there to be fewer ten-year-olds than newborns, because of infant mortality," he added.
AdvertisementHis findings suggest that the one-child policy may not have the grim consequences that have been widely predicted.
According to China's own figures, the traditional desire among Chinese families to have a boy, coupled with the one-child regime, should produce a surfeit of 30 million men by 2020, with many parents allegedly using ultrasound to guarantee the sex of their child.
The Telegraph quoted 47-year-old Fu Yang, as saying: "I am the biggest offender against the one-child policy in China. I had seven daughters in just ten years."
Mr Fu and his rather more reserved wife are among the millions of Chinese parents who risk threats, fines and even imprisonment in order to defy the country's one-child policy.
The couple, who now live a prosperous life in a small village outside the southern city of Xiamen, have had to flee across three provinces and hide their children with friends in the past.
"There were some difficult times. We were chased around and we had to live like beggars. But I never thought about doing otherwise. I'm aware that many people do not want their daughters, but we have a decent respect for life. In China, we think that when you have a child it is like dropping a piece of your own body from you, and we never considered the other options," he said.
Since 1978, China's government has limited each couple to one child in a bid to stem the growth of the world's largest population.
To police the law, neighbourhood committees keep a close eye out for any pregnancies. Family planning officials have the power to force women to have abortions and sterilisations, as well as to monitor their contraception.
The policy does not apply to everyone. In the countryside, parents are allowed to try for a second child if their first is a girl. Couples who are both single children themselves are also allowed to have two children. A growing number of rich Chinese also pay fines in order to have a second child.
But for parents who do not comply with the law, the penalties can be harsh. Workers in state-owned companies can lose their jobs. Others face huge fines, the possible demolition of their homes, or even a prison term.
Fu said that he knew several other people in his village who also had more than one child and that he had already encouraged his eldest daughter, who has recently born him a grandson, to continue to procreate.
"I told her: no matter what the cost, she should have more kids," he said.
Chinese law does not seem to have damaged the prospects for Fu's children. Three of his eldest five daughters are even Communist party members, while the other two remain in school.
One daughter is studying for a postgraduate law degree in Beijing while another is likely to take over from him as the head of the family business.
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