What a difference a few days make.
A mother in eastern China’s Zhejiang province was scheduled to give birth to her second child in February, a month after changes to the one-child policy were to take effect.
But nature had other plans, and the local government now wants her to pay the 200,000 yuan (US$32,000) fine.
Late last year, the ruling Communist Party unveiled a plan to reform the country’s decades-old one-child policy, allowing couples with either being an only child to have a second baby. The National People’s Congress announced the new policy in December, but that still left local governments to cobble the rules for its implementation.
In its guidelines, Zhejiang announced that mothers who gave birth to a second child on Jan. 17, 2014 or later would not face a fine provided they applied for a permit later.
“I got pregnant in May last year, and if I had given birth on the expected date in February, there would not have been any problem,” Liu Li, an only child who lives in the city of Taizhou, told Beijing-based news website Caixin.com.
However, the baby arrived prematurely on Dec. 28, just two weeks before the policy was to change.
On March 8, the government of Huangyan District where Liu lives sent her a letter demanding the payment of a 200,000 yuan fine for having a second child. It sent her another letter on April 28 urging her to pay the fine within 10 days.
She filed a lawsuit on June 9 asking the local court to overturn the penalty.
The government’s policy change has fueled similar problems about the date of birth of the second child across the country. On April 25, 2,750 couples sent a petition to the central government asking that they be exempted from paying the fines, the report said.
Two provinces, Anhui in the east and Hubei in the central region, have decided to use the date the party made its announcement, which was on Nov. 12 (or Dec. 28 in the case of the national legislature), as the start of the new policy.
China introduced the one-child policy in 1979 to control the rapid rise in the population. However, the country is now facing a rapidly aging population – it has more than 200 million people over age 60 – and labor shortages, factors that could stunt economic growth, Caixin says.
Some experts say that the government should not only allow couples to have a second child, but do away with family planning policies altogether and start encouraging families to have more children to arrest the worrying trend.
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