Chinese authorities in southern China are waging a brutal 20-day campaign to round up 10,000 men and women and have them sterilized for violating the state’s birth control quotas, reports the UK Times Online.
According to the Times, officials in Puning county are exercising coercive methods – such as arresting family members of those who refuse to be sterilized – because the county is getting too populous and making them look bad in contrast to the other counties of Guandong Province.
Officials are in a bid to get Puning promoted to a second-tier county, but they will fail if they cannot meet all quotas, including the birth quota.
The campaign was launched on April 7 in Puning, which the Times reports has a population of 2.24 million. One village doctor said his team had been performing daily sterilizations from 8 am until 4 am the next morning.
For the thousands who refused to be sterilized, officials have reportedly rounded up relatives, including the elderly, as leverage. Nearly 1,300 people were said to be detained by authorities into cramped conditions, where they would also be re-educated on the rules of the government’s “one child” policy. One detention center was reported to hold 100 people, mostly elderly, within a damp 200 square meter (2,150 sq. ft) room - leaving room only to stand or squat.
“It’s not uncommon for family planning authorities to adopt some tough tactics,” an anonymous official at the Puning Population and Family Planning Bureau told The Global Times.
However, on April 12, just five days into their campaign, Puning officials reported having met half their goal of 9,559 sterilizations, saying they had successfully persuaded people to comply through “education.”
Colin Mason of Population Research Institute described the action by officials as a “kind of second tier action as far as the one child policy goes” after punitive fines and threats fail. Mason spent about two weeks in China in 2009 for an on-the-ground investigation of the Chinese government’s coercive methods to enforce the “one child” policy.
“This is not so much the norm, this is not their first response, but this is what they do to show the counties that they are very serious,” said Mason. Officials generally seek other coercive methods, such as fines, before resorting to the more draconian method of rounding up people for mass coerced sterilization and abortions, which can be bad for public relations and, when severe enough, can provoke riots.
According to the Times report, officials felt pressure to sterilize aggressively in part because families in the countryside were having three or four children. Officials will usually allow a second child for families in the country, if their first child happens to be a girl, but no more.
Mason said it would be very difficult to say what the “breaking point” might be for the Chinese. In general, he said, living with the one-child policy “is just something that they are forced to confront and deal with.”
He added that from his experience in China he found the Chinese had a great deal of “resignation and cynicism” toward the government as they carry on in spite of it.
“People are going to try to have the children that they want, and they are going to try not to get caught, and if they do get caught they are going to try not to pay the consequences for it.”