A Little Too Late?
While many around the world yesterday were surprised and pleased by the breaking news that China has scrapped its infamous one-child policy for a more relaxed two-child policy, others felt the impact in a much more personal sense.
As Jenni ‘Fang’ Lee, a young woman adopted from China put it, ‘how can something so political feel so personal’? Jenni is one of over seventy thousand adopted from China since the country opened its doors to international adoption decades ago. Many like Jenny were relinquished (a more accurate and compassionate word than abandoned) because of illnesses or disabilities their birth family could not financially support. But for those who were separated because of fear of the heavy fines and penalties a second child would bring—or even the loss of jobs or persecution of family members as punishment—today’s news is bittersweet.
Over thirty years ago the one-child-per-couple policy was launched with the idea that implementing a strict family planning policy was the only way to control the rising population of over a billion Chinese, and reach a goal of modernization by year 2000. Human rights groups have long claimed that the policy is directly responsible for the high numbers of abortions—those voluntary for sex-selection and those forced by family planning officials—which China has worked to keep hidden. Not as widely acknowledged was the subsequent issue of infanticide due to the long held belief that a newborn daughter is not as valuable to a family as a son, and if a couple could only have one child, a son it must be. Another repercussion of the policy has been the ever increasing gender imbalance, resulting in more illegal trafficking of women to villages and cities suffering from too many men and not enough women to marry.
But as of Thursday, October 28, many applaud the news that all Chinese couples will be allowed to have two children without fear of governmental repercussions.
‘”To promote a balanced growth of population, China will continue to uphold the basic national policy of population control and improve its strategy on population development,” Xinhua, China’s state run new agency reported, citing a communique issued by the ruling Communist Party. “China will fully implement the policy of ‘one couple, two children’ in a proactive response to the issue of an aging population.”’
But what about the damage already done? Does this change mean that many of that country’s undocumented ‘ghost’ children can now be claimed? Perhaps even given the coveted hukou legal identification that is required to attend school, receive medical care, travel, and even marry later in life? Or will those children who were already living in the shadows of a policy gone wrong be forced to remain there with ripples of their undeserved punishment passed down from generation to generation? *China’s 2010 census estimated that there are over 13 million people without the official documentation (hukou) that will enable them to move freely around China and live normal lives.
As for how the changes will affect children still in orphanages across China, Amy Eldridge, Founder of Love Without Boundaries, an organization that supports orphans in China says, ‘”I know so many people were overjoyed at the news today that the one-child policy is officially being retired, but I honestly don’t anticipate any change in the often overwhelming needs of Chinese orphanages.”’
Amy makes a very valid point, as I look back and remember my years working as a volunteer in the orphanage and the fact that almost every child I met had some sort of disability or illness that was the catalyst for the separation from their biological family. Read more about my time there in my memoir, Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage
Despite the harsh criticism of motive, and the outspokenness of those who say the government still has no business regulations how many children a couple can have, most of us can agree that this policy update is a positive step for the future of China’s social welfare system.
However, as the world acknowledges that China has taken a step in the right direction in the subject of human rights, we must not forget the adoptees around the world and those left undocumented in China, who because of the repercussions of a draconian-style edict such as the one-child policy, will forever wonder if this new change has come a little too late.
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