Chinese officials have exempted families with children killed, severely injured, or disabled in the devastating Sichuan earthquake from the restrictions of China’s one-child policy. The May 12 quake, which left more than 65,000 dead, was particularly painful for many Chinese because so many children died.
China expert Steven W. Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute, welcomes the policy changes. "Many of China's rural schools are so poorly constructed that they became death traps during the earthquake. The heavy tile roofs simply came crashing down on the heads of the children below. They had no chance to escape."
The Chengdu Population and Family Planning Committee, located in Sichuan’s capital, said that families affected by the disaster can obtain a certificate to have another child, the Associated Press reports.
The Chinese government normally enforces its one-child policy by fining couples who have more than one child. However, the committee’s announcement said that if a child born illegally was killed in the earthquake, parents will no longer have to pay fines, though previously paid fines will not be refunded. If a couple’s legally born child was killed but its illegally born sibling survived, that sibling can be registered as the legal child, the authorities explained.
Illegally born children are denied many rights, including nine free years of compulsory education.
Mosher, who has followed the one-child policy since its inception and described it in his most recent book “Population Control”, went on to comment that "The natural human reaction to losing a child is to have a make-up child as quickly as possible. But this will not be possible for most of the couples who have lost children to the quake, regardless of what the government policy is. Most women of childbearing age have been sterilized, or their spouses have been sterilized. Unless the government begins offering free tubal ligation and vasectomy reversals to these poor people, there will be no more children."
The authorities have also ruled that adopted children do not violate the one-child policy. About 4,000 children were orphaned in the quake and many Chinese have expressed interest in adopting them. Officials said they would make every effort to connect children with relatives.
China’s one-child policy was instituted in the late 1970s. According to the government, the policy has prevented 400 million births. Its putative goals include ensuring better education and health care to a smaller population.
Critics have charged that the policy has encouraged forced abortions and sterilizations. The policy has also created a sex imbalance in the country as boys are preferred to girls, who are disproportionately aborted.