By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
BEIJING, Jan. 7 -- Officials in Hubei province have expelled 500 people from the Communist Party for violating China's "one-child" family planning policy, state media reports said Monday.
Of the 93,084 people who had more children than allowed last year, 1,678 were officials or party members, the New China News Agency reported. Among the violators were seven national or local legislators and political advisers, all of whom were stripped of their political status. Another 395 offenders lost their jobs.
China's family planning officials, worried about a baby boom that could further strain the country's resources, have been trying to crack down on parents who have more children than they are permitted under the law.
Under the current rules, city residents are limited to one child, while rural residents may have two children. In addition, parents who themselves are only children and members of ethnic minorities are granted exceptions.
Controversial family planning rules have helped lift millions out of poverty here but they also have exacerbated a gender imbalance, whereby 118 boys are now born for every 100 girls.
In recent years, a growing number of wealthy Chinese have defied the rules and simply paid the resultant fines. Now, government agencies are attempting to improve the enforcement of their policies without necessarily resorting to coercive means such as forced abortions -- a tactic used in the past.
Hubei province, which levied a record-breaking $105,000 fine against a local lawmaker last year, now bars violators from holding elective office or government jobs for three years.
"More party members, celebrities and well-off people are violating the policies in recent years, which has undermined social equality," said Yang Youwang, head of Hubei's family planning commission, according to the New China News Agency. A number of cases involving celebrities or officials were still under investigation, but they would be later identified, Yang said.
Wang Yukai, a professor with China's National School of Administration, said gradual changes to family planning policies would take years to complete. Those changes also would have to include a social security system for rural residents who make up most of China's 1.3 billion population.
"Family concepts in the countryside are old and traditional, such as having a son to carry on the family name. It will take a long time to change people's minds. Sons live with their parents and look after them, but daughters leave home when they marry," Wang said. "It will also take a long time to change the idea that men are superior to women, to enhance education, to modernize agriculture and to set up a social insurance system."