Chinese state holds parents hostage in sterilisation drive

Hundreds of senior citizens have been held captive in Chinese government offices as part of a campaign by family planning officials to force their children to submit to sterilisation.

The elderly people are parents of children suspected of flouting strict family planning rules in the southern Chinese city of Puning. According to the Nanfang Rural News, the local government has drawn up a list of nearly 10,000 people who are suspected of planning to have a second or third child. Around half that group has agreed to comply with sterilisation.

The 1,377 detained people include some of those who have so far refused, but mostly consist of their parents. Witnesses said that they were being held in cramped, damp conditions, including one group of 200 which had been herded into a hundred-square-metre room. "The room was too small for all the people to lie down and sleep," the Nanfang Rural News said. "The young ones had to stand or squat." The detainees are being lectured on family planning rules.

Huang Rufeng, a father of three, said that he and his wife had refused to be sterilised. "Several days ago, a village official called me and asked me or my wife to return for the surgery," he told the newspaper. "Otherwise they would take away my father." He says that his 64-year-old father has since been removed.

The 20-day campaign in Puning was triggered by criticism over poor population control, exacerbated by the fact that many couples registered in the area left to find factory jobs elsewhere and found it easier to evade the regulations.

"It's not uncommon for family planning authorities to adopt tough tactics," an employee at the Puning Population and Family Bureau told the Global Times.

Further "extraordinary measures" to be taken against families with more than one child – or two if the first is a girl – include subsequent children's exclusion from school and health insurance.

China's draconian "one couple, one child" policy is now widely accepted in the country as a means of controlling population growth. But provincial officials say that authorities in Puning will be investigated to establish whether their actions have gone too far.

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