Thousands of people in one county of southern China have been sterilized in just days as part of a crackdown on violations of the country’s controversial one-child policy.
A 20-day campaign was begun on 7 April to sterilize 9,559 adults in Puning county, which with a population of 2.24 million is the most populous area of Guangdong Province. On 12 April local officials said they had already achieved about half their goal.
Doctors have been working 20 hour days to complete the massive round of surgeries. Local officials are so determined to reach their target they have been detaining relatives of those who resist the operation, potentially in violation of Chinese law.
Some 1,300 people are being held in cramped conditions around the county and forced to listen to lectures about the one-child policy while their relatives refuse to submit to the surgery.
The brother of 38-year-old Zhang Lizhao, who is the father of two young sons, was detained while Zhang was out of town buying supplies for his wholesale fruit business. Zhang rushed home to get sterilized – after his wife was already forced to have the same operation – so that his brother would be released.
“This morning my wife called me and said they were forcing her to be sterilised today,” Zhang said. “She pleaded with the clinic to wait because she has her period. But they would not wait a single day. I called and begged them but they said no. So I have rushed back. I am satisfied because I have two sons.”
Another man being held is the 68-year-old father of Huang Ruifeng, whose son has three daughters. Huang is refusing to submit to the surgery because he wants his wife to give birth to a son. He also said that he was too busy to attend hospital and that he did not have confidence in local medical techniques.
About 100 people were being held in one family planning center that was just 2,150 square feet in size. Detainees huddled together on the mats provided, which did not leave enough space for everyone to lie down at the same time.
“It’s not uncommon for family planning authorities to adopt some tough tactics,” said an official at the Puning Population and Family Planning Bureau, who declined to be identified.
The detentions are the latest tactic in the county’s bid to reduce violations of the rules as part of a bid to secure Puning second-tier county status. Couples with illegal children or their relatives who apply for permits to build a house are rejected. Illegal children are also refused residency registration, a penalty that denies them access to healthcare and education.
The county is under criticism from provincial authorities to slow a population growth that is reflecting badly on the entire province. One reason for Puning’s large population is that families in the mainly rural region often have up to three or four children.
However one official said that an investigation would be launched to establish whether authorities in Puning had exceeded their remit. A state-level regulation stipulates that couples who violate the one-child policy must not be punished without proper authorization and family members may not be penalized to put pressure on couples.
Rules in Puning, as throughout rural China, allow farmers to have a second child if the first is a daughter. After that couples must stop. The population control policy, referred to by the Chinese Government as the family planning policy, has been in force since 1978.