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New Law Guides Family Planning in China
China is resorting to a new law to promote family planning as its large population will exert pressure on economic growth, social progress and resources distribution in the coming decades, said participants to the annual session of the top legislature.

With the Law on Population and Family Planning passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) in last December, the government is doing a better job in raising people's awareness about the population situation and providing couples of childbearing age with various contraceptive options and fine services.

Summarizing the experience on family planning in the past three decades, the law emphasizes the principle of human care and prohibits coercion, abuse of powers, and infringement on people's legitimate rights and interests.

"The law requires that officials in charge of family planning change their work style," said Xie Mingdao, director of the Family Planning Commission of Sichuan, one of the most populous provinces in China.

"In a province with a large population and under-developed economic and social conditions, the control over population expansion should be combined with raising living standards. Punishment is never the best option," Xie said.

In Sichuan, more than five million rural couples who have chosen to follow family planning have been assisted to get out of poverty.

The population growth rate across the country was 0.81 percent in 2001, but the figure in Sichuan was only 0.44 percent. Subsequently, the province moved up two places in the ranking of China's provincial areas in terms of per capita GDP.

Actually, many local governments have revised family planning regulations over the past years, discarding compulsory measures and offering more options of contraception to the public, who are taught the pros and cons of different methods. The outcome is better contraception and less abortions.

According to Xu Guanxing, an NPC deputy from Zhejiang Province, annual family planning targets have been abolished in the province and couples have the right to choose when they want to have their first child and what contraceptive way they want to use.

In some prospering areas such as Shanghai and Hangzhou cities, local population has got negative growth.

Over the past years, reproductive health has become a public concern. Family planning departments have broadened their service scope from maternity guidance to the treatment of sterile couples and AIDS prevention.

Since 1998, more than 100 high-level Chinese officials in charge of family planning have been sent to the United States and other countries to receive training on welfare and mother and child health care. Upon their return, the officials have changed their work style with a new understanding of reproductive health.

Accordingly, the Chinese government has improved the social security system to help address people's difficulties in the course of family planning so that they are ready to practice family planning by themselves.

Facts have shown that China's family planning policy has backed economic growth in the past 30 years and helped improve people's living conditions. The date when the world's total population reached six billion was postponed four years.

It is estimated that by the year 2050 China's population will no longer be the largest in the world and its living standards will be equal to those of moderately developed countries.

(People's Daily March 13, 2002)

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