Baby sale crime shouldn’t roll back family planning

The news that local family planning officials have been seizing babies and selling them overseas for adoption has sent shock waves through the nation. The actions of the officials have been condemned for sheer inhumanity that amounts to criminal abduction.

Media reports said that officials working for a local family planning bureau in Shaoyang, Hunan Province forcibly took away at least 16 babies from families which violated the family planning policy by having more babies than allowed by law. The officials sent the seized babies to local orphanages, from where the babies were then sold overseas for adoption. Each baby could fetch up to $3,000.

The Shaoyang government is now investigating the case. Some experts attribute this tragic scandal to the family planning policy. They argue that in order to control birthrate in the rural areas where people tend to have more children, local authorities usually resort to extreme punitive methods. Often this results in the families losing their property or having their babies seized.

Officials found guilty of involvement in the scandal should be punished swiftly under the law so that it serves as a deterrent, especially since the media had reported similar incidents earlier, such as a case in Guizhou two years ago. However, asking to revoke the family planning policy because of such cases, which is wrongful implementation, would be irresponsible. The policy itself is designed to lower the birthrate and not to encourage child trafficking.

China started the family planning policy in the 1970s, as the population, already at about 400 million in mid 20th century, was booming. However, family planning is not an inflexible “one-child” policy. The rules allow more than one child for couples who belong to ethnic minorities, rural families with only a girl, or when both parents are the only children of their families. More flexible reforms have been considered.

However, even after 30 years of family planning,  the population pressure is not easing. China’s population is expected to peak at more than 1.5 billion by 2033, indicating this country will continue to face growing pressures in employment, housing, traffic, education and other social and economic sectors. The most devastating global effect of a huge population may well be not having enough food to feed so many. Can the environment sustain the ever-growing agricultural and industrial impact?

An aging society can pose challenges to the population policy, because  the easiest way to ease the pressure of an aging population may seem to be more babies. But two wrongs don’t make a right. If China wants to become a vibrant welfare state, wherein people can live comfortably, have enough food and not be crowded out of education, employment, transportation, public places, health care and a healthy environment, then the urge, of some people, to have unlimited number of babies needs to be curbed before the country, economy and society are overwhelmed by an unmanageable population.

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