Ordinary Chinese 'Won't Benefit' From Beijing's Two-Child Policy

china-twochildren-jan072016.jpg A Chinese man walks with his two children on a Shanghai street in an undated photo.

China's amended population control policy, which limits couples to two children instead of one, is unlikely to result in an end to official abuses of power or an improvement in women's reproductive rights, analysts said as the new law took effect at the start of 2016.

The change in the law comes amid official concerns over a falling birth rate and a rapidly aging population.

Previously, most parents were restricted to having one child, although the political and financial elite were able to afford the financial penalties and often have larger families.

However, critics say the new rules are just as unreasonable as the old ones.

"This is an unreasonable control measure," women's rights activist Zhao Sile told RFA. "It doesn't matter whether it's a one-child policy or a two-child policy; it is still state control over women's reproductive rights."

"They are treating women's wombs like factories for the state production of children, because the state requires them," she said.

"Women's uteruses are being regarded as the property of the state, or something that can be controlled by the state ... and if you get pregnant [beyond the permitted limits], they will still force you to have an abortion."

No real change

According to Zhao, such coercive measures interfere with a woman's right to control her own fertility.

"That's why I don't really see any change in state family planning policy," she said.

Chinese activist and family planning lawyer Chen Guangcheng, currently in the United States, agreed.

"Basically they are still telling us that they get to control our most basic rights," said Chen, who was jailed and tortured and escaped from house arrest in spite of his blindness when family planning officials retaliated against his advocacy on behalf of women forced to have abortions and sterilizations by the state.

"There has been no basic change in the status of people's reproductive rights," he said. "I don't think this will be resolved until China starts to implement democratic reforms."

"People's basic human rights won't be respected until this happens, and until then, all they're doing is treating the symptoms," Chen said.

Already struggling

It remains to be seen just how many couples will find themselves in a position to have a second child, as parents are already struggling with the huge financial burden of buying a home and paying the expenses of a single child.

Many eligible couples in their child-bearing years didn't take up the option of a second child under a partial relaxation of the old rules in 2013.

"I'm already exhausted after more than 20 years of hard study, including seven at university, and getting a job in Beijing to slave every day for somebody else," a young woman also surnamed Zhao told RFA.

"I can't even afford a roof over my head, let alone a second child," Zhao said. "I can't even afford my first child."

"This policy is totally useless, and ordinary people will derive no benefit from it," she said.

Beijing is hoping that the new policy will bring an extra 30 million people into the work force by 2050 and create a fall of two percentage points in the proportion of elderly people in the general population.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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