Parents reject fines for kids born before policy change, govt insists they must pay

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2016-1-11 20:13:01

Parents protest in front of the NHFPC headquarter on Thursday.  

A mother holds her child in a protest calling for canceling of the family planning fines in Beijing on Thursday. The poster reads "People see new babies smiling, but who cares about the older babies crying?" Photos: Courtesy of Ma Ling, one of the protesters

On Thursday, about 70 parents who, in breach of the rules, gave birth to their second child before the start of the two-child policy on January 1 protested outside the headquarters of China's family planning authorities in Beijing and called for their fines to be cancelled.

"It is ridiculous that you have to pay hundreds of thousands of yuan in fines if your baby is born one minute to 12 am, and you don't if your baby is born after 12 am," one protestor said.

China's family planning policy, which was introduced in the 1970s, limited most urban couples to having one child. In late October, China decided to allow all couples to have a second child to balance population development and tackle the challenges of an aging population.

But couples who broke the rules and gave birth to second children before the policy was relaxed will still have to pay fines - social maintenance fees - the national family planning authorities announced Monday.

The size of the fees varies in different cities and years, but are usually several times the annual per capita disposable income of local urban citizens that year.

In many provinces and cities, children born outside the policy are denied household registration, or hukou, if their parents do not pay up the fines, which limits their access to education, healthcare and housing benefits.

In China, there are a total of 13 million people without hukou, many of whom are second children born outside the rules.

Contribution to the country

Protestors chanted the slogan "second children should not be treated differently," while standing outside the gate of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC).

One of them held her baby in her arms, and stuck to the baby's back was a piece of poster that read, "Having a second child is legal, say no to fines."

The mother surnamed Zhang, 41, told the Global Times that she could not swallow the fact that she had to pay 350,000 yuan ($53,130) in social maintenance fees just because her girl was born less than one year before the new policy was announced.

"Why is the government still fining us after it made having a second child legal for all couples?" she asked.

"I could not wait for the change of the policy, as I had already approached my 40s when I was pregnant. I was afraid that I would soon be unable to conceive physically," Zhang said.

The majority of the mothers who protested Thursday said that they had the same struggle, as they were all born in the 1970s.

They are the unlucky ones. Some women whose due date was around the end of December managed to stay motionless in bed for days to delay their labor and avoid fines.

A father in East China's Fujian Province even named his newborn second child "80,000 yuan," the sum she saved the family by being born on January 1, local media reported.

Protestors believe that they have made a contribution to the country by having a second child, as it helps China increase its labor pool which is needed by the aging society.

By 2050, China is expected to have nearly 500 million people aged over 60, exceeding the population of the United States, according to UN predictions.

Punishments still stand

The majority of the protestors have not paid their fines, as they hope that the government will waive them soon.

But many said they will pay up if the policy stays the same when their children reach school age, as their children will be deprived of education rights if they lack hukou.

In cities like Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province the authorities passed an amendment to local family planning rules in late December which removed the provision linking family planning certificates to hukou registration, according to news site

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning told the Global Times in an e-mail interview on Thursday that couples who had their second child before January 1 outside the policy have to pay social maintenance fees, citing the legal principle of non-retroactivity which means that the rules cannot apply to actions carried out before the rules are implemented.

Punishments already handed down to couples that had a second child before January 1, 2016 will be carried out, Yang Wenzhuang, head of the Department of Community Family Planning with the NHFPC, said Monday, adding that people will continue to be charged social maintenance fees for having extra children.

Couples who had a second child illegally that have not yet been handed punishments should be dealt with based on rules made by local authorities, Yang said.

Wang Pei'an, vice minister of the NHFPC, said at the conference that China will stick to its family planning policy for another 20 or 30 years, given that China will have a large population for a long time. China's population will peak at about 1.45 billion by 2030.

However some argue this is the wrong approach.

Huang Wenzheng,  one of the founders of Population  and Future Online., told the Global Times that the government should cite another principle of law - favorable retroactivity - in collecting social maintenance fees.

According to China's Legislation Law, the new law should apply to actions committed before the enactment of the law, if the actions are legal under the law and are beneficial to all concerned parties.

"These parents who had a second child outside the previous family planning policy didn't break the law under the relaxed policy, and canceling fines will be welcomed by those parents and can also smooth over social conflicts," Huang said.

Newspaper headline: Bucks for babies

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