Six million and counting – the ‘Chinese census timebomb’


On 12 October 1999 the UN announced that the world’s population had reached 6 billion – an increase of 1 billion in just 12 years: China has the world’s biggest proportion of people (though India may well overtake it by 2045).

With a population that is expected to rise from 1.3 billion to 1.8 billion over the next 50 years, China continues to embrace the one child policy introduced in September 1980 to counter population pressures created by Mao Tse-Tung’s ‘glorious mother’ policies. The Chinese Government claims that the policy has prevented 300 million births over 20 years. But this has been at a cost: dark and evil tales of mass abortions and infanticide have abounded and it is rumoured that China’s enforcers of the ‘one child family’ remedies are as ruthless today as they’ve always been.

It is estimated there are 1000 000 unregistered in the population at least!

The reason for the renewed vigour in implementing the 20-year-old one child policy is simple. In November 2001 China will conduct its first official census for a decade. Family planning officials are petrified that the census will reveal just how they have let the one child policy slip especially in the countryside and how many extra unregistered children have been born. For many years now the family planners have taken the education and persuasion route rather than to ‘punish’. But, with a looming census there has been a vicious and unprecedented backlash by family planning officials. They have to get population numbers down and quick, or risk demotion, losing bonuses, their homes and their jobs.

The population is expected to have doubled in the time the one child plan has been in place!

CASE STUDY - Baby traffic beats ‘one child’ policy - This traffic in which poor families from the hinterland sell surplus infants to the richer coastal provinces, is taken for granted.

‘Girls are less popular.’ They only fetch 1500 renminbi (£120). A good healthy boy is worth four times as much. The official People’s Daily has reported that almost 10 000 women and children are abducted and sold each year in Sichuan alone. Although no nation-wide figures are available, the practice is known to be prevalent in such other poor areas as central Hubei, eastern Anhui, southeastern Jiangxi and southern Guizhou.

A boy is more useful because of his labour power. As he grows up he can earn more in the fields, and even more if he becomes a migrant worker in the city. The traffic illustrates one of many loopholes in the ‘one-childfamily’ policy. Police have now cracked down on baby selling but strong economic incentives may make it hard to eradicate.

For countryside dwellers this is ‘easy cash’. ‘Have a fat tummy every year; after three you’ll be able to cheer’! Alarmed by the problem, Beijing has launched a campaign against selling women, which it has classified as one of the ‘six-evils’, along with prostitution, pornography, gambling, drug trafficking and what it calls feudal suspicion (consulting fortune tellers and the like). During a 15-day crackdown in the coastal province of Shan-dong last June, city and court officials were called into the governor’s office and told that they would be held responsible if they failed to take action. During the 15 days, according to the English language newspaper China Daily, 170 women and children were rescued, 859 middlemen arrested and 82 gangs broken up.


‘As long as the FPO have quotas to meet, they will use whatever means at their disposal to stop women having children.’ And there is no doubt they are effective at it. Let’s hope the results of the censors ‘don’t give the FPO the excuse to get even better’!

2000 is the year of the dragon. In dragon years it is lucky to have a child.

CASE STUDY - ‘Do you realise it is illegal for this baby to live?’ - For many it is not the one-child policy that’s the problem but how it is implemented: ‘orphanages are swelling with babies left to die by their parents. 90% are girls, and every year 750 000 go unaccounted for’.

Though the care offered in these orphanages has improved they are still dubbed the ‘dying rooms’.

Those that fall pregnant can be treated with absolute disdain and inhumanity:

  • in China iodine or formaldehyde is injected into baby skulls as they ‘crown’, they die instantly, and in China this is classified as legal abortion!
  • new born babies are drowned or beaten to death!
  • in some cases, pregnant women who have violated the one child policy are held in detention centres by family planning officials whilst attempts (with injections of saline into the foetus) are made to kill the unborn child.

Those who fall foul of the FPO are ostracised, beaten and fined.

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