CHINESE RIOT OVER ONE CHILD POLICY
From International Herald Tribune: BEIJING: A intensive campaign to enforce strict population-control measures prompted violent clashes between the police and local residents in southwestern China in recent days, witnesses said, describing the latest incident of rural unrest that has alarmed senior officials in Beijing.
Villagers and visitors to several counties of Guangxi autonomous region in southwestern China said rioters smashed and burned government offices, overturned official vehicles, and clashed with the riot police in a series of confrontations over the past four days.
They gave varying accounts of injuries and deaths, with some asserting that as many as five people were killed, including three officials responsible for population-control work. A local government official in one of the counties affected confirmed the rioting in an interview by telephone but denied reports of deaths or serious injuries.
The violence appeared to stem from a two-month-long crackdown in Guangxi to punish people who violated the country's birth control policy. The policy limits the number of children families can have legally.
Corruption, land grabs, pollution, unpaid wages and a widening wealth gap have fueled tens of thousands of incidents of unrest in recent years, many of them occurring in rural areas that have been left behind in China's long economic boom.
The central government, expressing concern that unrest could undermine one-party rule, have alleviated the tax burden on peasants and sought to curtail confiscations of farmland for development. But China's hinterland remains volatile compared with the relative prosperity and stability of its largest cities.
To limit the growth of its population of 1.3 billion, many parts of China rely more on financial penalties and incentives than on coercive measures, including forced abortions and sterilizations, that were common in the 1980s, when the so-called one-child policy was first strictly enforced.
But local officials who fail to meet annual population control targets can still come under heavy bureaucratic pressure to reduce births in their area of responsibility or face demotion or removal from office.
According to villagers and witness accounts posted on the Internet, officials in several parts of Guangxi mobilized their largest effort in years to roll back population growth by instituting mandatory health checks for women and forcing pregnant women who did not have approval to give birth to abort fetuses.
Several people said officials also slapped fines starting at 500 yuan and ranging as high as 70,000 yuan, or $65 to $9,000, on families that had violated birth control measures anytime since 1980. The new tax, called a "social child-raising fee," was collected even though the vast majority of violators had already paid fines in the past, the people said.
According to an account published on a Web forum called Longtan, officials in Bobai County of Guangxi boasted that they had collected 7.8 million yuan in social child-raising fees from February through the end of April.
Many families objected strongly to the fees and refused to pay. Witnesses said in such cases villagers were detained, their homes searched, and valuables, including electronic items and motorcycles, confiscated by the government.
"Worst of all, the gangsters used hammers and iron rods to destroy people's homes, while threatening that the next time it would be with bulldozers," said one local peasant, who identified himself as Nong Sheng and who faxed a petition letter complaining of the abuses to a reporter in Beijing.
Nong said the crackdown was widespread in several counties in Guangxi. He said local courts had declined to hear any cases related to the matter, citing an edict from local officials.
Other villagers reached by phone described an escalating series of confrontations that began Thursday and continued through the weekend. Several described in detail an assault on the government offices of Shapi Township, Bobai County, by thousands of peasants.
They said villagers broke through a wall surrounding the government building, ransacked the offices, smashed computers and destroyed documents and then set fire to the building itself. There were inconsistent reports of death and injuries during that clash and a subsequent crackdown by riot police.