Violators of discarded one-child rule still required to pay fines

A woman carries a child as passengers wait to board a train during the Chinese Lunar New Year travel rush at a railway station in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, Feb 13, 2016.
A woman carries a child as passengers wait to board a train during the Chinese Lunar New Year travel rush at a railway station in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, Feb 13, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • Chinese parents who had a second baby before China's one-child policy was abolished still have to pay fines for violating the family planning rules, Caixin magazine reported on its website.

Last October, the Chinese Communist Party declared an end to the controversial one-child policy, allowing all couples to have two kids starting from Jan 1.

Couples who exceeded the one-child limit were ordered to pay fines, also known as "social maintenance fees". The fees could be three to six times a household's annual per capita income, reported local media.

To pressure couples into paying the fines - an important source of revenue for local family planning commissions - some local authorities refused to register the child if the parents did not pay up. Many parents in China also did not register the birth of their second and subsequent child for fear of having to pay the hefty fines.

Without a household registration account, or hukou, a child will not enjoy full access to education, healthcare and other social benefits.

An estimated 13 million Chinese lack such household registration documents, 60 per cent of whom were born outside the one-child limit.

Last month, the State Council, China's Cabinet, issued a directive ordering local governments to come up with measures to register all citizens. The Jan 14 directive said the hukou was a "basic right of citizens".

The directive raised the hopes of families with unregistered children that the fines would not be imposed retroactively. "But that actually changed very little," said Caixin in its report.

A proposed amendment to the Population and Family Planning Law, released in December, retained the fine for families who are "not in compliance with the law".

Several Chinese provinces have since announced that while paying a fine will no longer be a precondition for obtaining hukou, families who violated the old rules will still be required to pay fines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'Violators of discarded one-child rule still required to pay fines'. Print Edition | Subscribe