VIII. Family Planning and Protection Of Human Rights


The Chinese government implements a family planning policy in the light of the Constitution, with the aim of promoting economic and social development, raising people's living standards, enhancing the quality of its population and safeguarding the people's rights to enjoy a better life.

China is a developing country with the biggest population in the world. Many people, little arable land, comparatively inadequate per-capita share of natural resources plus a relatively backward economy and culture -- these features spell out China's basic national conditions.

The population which is expanding too quickly poses a sharp contradiction to economic and social development, the utilization of resources and environmental protection, places a serious constraint on China's economic and social development, and drags improvement of livelihood and the quality of the people. By the end of 1990, the mainland population had reached 1.14 billion. With such an immense population base, China, despite the implementation of birth control, still sees a yearly net increase of 17 million people, a number equal to the population of a medium-sized country. As for the per-capita area of cultivated land, it had dropped to 1.3 mu, representing only 25 percent of the world average. Similarly, the per-capita share of freshwater resources is just one quarter of the world average. China's grain production ranks first in the world, but divided among the population, the amount of grain per person accounts for just 22 percent of that in the United States. More than a quarter of the annual addition to the national income is consumed by the new population born during the same year. As a result, funds for accumulation have to be cut, and the speed of economic growth slowed down. The rapid swelling of the population has brought about many pressures on the country's employment, education, housing, medical care, and communications and transportation. Faced with the gravity of this situation, the government, in order to guarantee people's minimum living conditions and to enable citizens not only to have enough to eat and wear but also to grow better off, cannot do as some people imagine -- wait for a high level of economic development to initiate a natural decline in birthrate. If we did so, the population would grow without restriction, and the economy would deteriorate steadily. Hence, China has to strive for economic growth by trying in every possible way to increase the productive forces, while at the same time practice the policy of family planning to strictly control population growth so that it may suit economic and social development. This is the only correct choice that any government responsible to the people and their descendants can make under China's given set of special circumstances.

It is universally acknowledged that China has achieved tremendous successes in family planning. The birthrate dropped by a big margin from 33.43 per thousand in 1970 to 21.06 per thousand in 1990, and the natural population growth dropped from 25.83 per thousand to 14.39 per thousand. In 1970, the child-bearing rate of Chinese women was 5.81, and the figure decreased to 2.31 in 1990. At present, the above three indicators are lower than the average level of other developing countries. To a certain extent, this success has mitigated the contradiction between China's ballooning population and its economic and social development. It has played an important role in advancing socialist modernization and raising the living standard and the quality of the population. Also it has been an important contribution to the stability of the world's population.

The Chinese government, proceeding from national conditions, has fixed the target of population growth and formulated the following family planning policy: delayed marriage and postponement of having children, giving birth to fewer but healthier children, and one family, one child. Rural families facing genuine difficulties (including households with a single daughter) can have a second child after an interval of several years. Family planning is also being encouraged among minority nationalities to further their well-being and prosperity, and is based on the minority people's own free will. The specific requirements for minorities are different from those for Han families and are determined by the governments of autonomous regions and provinces according to the population, economy, resources, culture and customs of each nationality. Such a population policy, taking into account both the state's necessity to control population growth and the masses' real problems and degree of acceptance, tallies with China's actual economic and social situation and conforms to the people's fundamental interests. As experience proves, the policy has been understood and supported by the masses after thoroughgoing publicity and education. The fourth census showed that among the children born in 1989 throughout the country, the more-than-three-children birthrate dropped to 19.32 percent from 62.21 percent in 1970.

China adheres to the principle of combining government guidance with the wishes of the masses when carrying out its family planning policy. Since it involves all families, it would be impossible to put the policy into effect in a country with a population of more than 1.1 billion without the masses' understanding, support and conscientious participation. Family planning is also a reform of social custom and cannot possibly be carried out just by administrative orders. In the countryside, which is inhabited by 80 percent of the population, millennia-old traditional ideas remain influential, the economy is backward in some areas, and the social welfare and guarantee systems are still inadequate. People have real difficulties in their production and livelihood. Given these factors, the government has always given priority to tireless publicity and educational work among the masses to enhance public awareness that birth control, as a fundamental policy, has a direct bearing on the nation's prosperity and people's happy family life.

Government officials are required to take the lead in carrying out the policy and set a good example. In recent years, the Chinese Family Planning Association has set up more than 600,000 grass-roots branches with 32 million members to aid the masses in self-education, self-management and self-service, combining ideological education with helping the masses solve practical problems.

At the same time, the government has adopted some necessary economic and administrative measures as supplementary means. These measures are all adopted in keeping with the law, and with the ultimate aim of persuasion.

The family planning program puts contraception first, to protect the health of women and children. The government has made great efforts to spread scientific knowledge of contraceptive practices, and to provide couples of child-bearing age who do not want child with safe, efficacious, simple and inexpensive contraceptives and the choice of a birth-control operation. At present, about 75 percent of the couples of child-bearing age throughout the country are resorting to various kinds of contraceptive practices. All forms of forced abortion are resolutely opposed. Artificial abortion, only as a remedy for contraception failure, is performed on a voluntary basis and with guarantee of safety. In a situation of a notably lower birthrate, the ratio of annual births to artificial abortions is about the medium level in the current world. This has resulted from effective practices of contraception. Now China is adopting practical and effective measures to further lower the ratio.

China's population policy has two objectives: control of population growth and improvement in quality of the population. Work in this field not only encourages couples of child-bearing age to have fewer children but also provides them with mother care, baby care and advice on optimum methods of child-bearing and child-rearing. These services include premarriage check-ups, heredity consultation, pre-natal diagnosis and care during pregnancy to help couples have sound, healthy babies.

Drowning or abandoning female infants, a pernicious practice left over from feudal society, occurs much less often now, but has not been stamped out entirely in some remote areas. China's law clearly forbids the drowning of infants and other acts of killing them. The government has adopted practical measures for handling these kinds of criminal offenses according to law.

China's family planning policy fully conforms to Item 9 of the United Nations' Declaration of Mexico City on Population and Growth in 1984, which demands that "countries which consider that their population growth rate hinders their national development plans should adopt appropriate population plans and programs." It also accords with the UN World Population Plan of Action which stresses that every country has the sovereign right to formulate and implement its own population policy. Some people who censure China's family planning policy as "violating human rights" and being "inhuman" do not understand or consider China's real situation. But some others have deliberately distorted the facts in an attempt to put pressure on China and interfere in China's internal affairs. China has only two alternatives in handling its population problem: to implement the family planning policy or to allow blind growth in births. The former choice enables children to be born and grow up healthily and live a better life, while the latter one leads to unrestrained expansion of population so that the majority of the people will be short of food and clothing, while some will even tend to die young. Which of the two pays more attention to human rights and is more humane? The answer is obvious.