Seven women say they were beaten up by a group of men all dressed in black after they went to Beijing from Gansu Province’s Hui County to allege corruption over earthquake relief funds.

The women published an online post yesterday in a microblog on to tell of their humiliating experience on April 27 by the men who beat them, stripped them down to their underwear in public, and sent them back to Hui County in a van overnight without even allowing them to use the toilet during a journey which was many hours long.

One witness, who described himself as a retired soldier in his 80s, wrote on the microblog: “When I saw them beating the women, I scolded them for acting like bandits. It was the most horrible, shameful, and barbarous scene I have ever seen in my life.”

In a telephone interview, 43-year-old Liu Xiuhua, one of the seven women, told Shanghai Daily they had arrived at the Dunhuang Plaza in Beijing at 3pm on April 27 planning to report a number of county officials for corruption involving relief funds released after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which also affected Gansu.

After 30 minutes waiting at the entrance of the Gansu provincial government’s Beijing office in the plaza, more than 20 men arrived in two vans and demanded that they get into the vehicles.

“The office said they were policemen, but we saw some of them with tattoos all over their bodies,” said Liu.

The men dragged an 80-year-old women into the van and stripped the clothing off four others in the plaza, in front of several male security guards and office workers, said Liu.

“They kicked and punched us for over 30 seconds before we were all thrown into the van,” Liu said. “Then the engine started, I was sitting beside a woman who was beaten into a coma and the leader of the men kept punching and scolding us.”

She didn’t know how long it took them to arrive at their hometown in Hui County, but when they arrived, it was already nightfall on April 28.

During the long journey, the van made no stops to allow the women to use the toilet, Liu said.

According to the women’s online post, the van dropped the women off at Hui County’s police bureau.

The policemen there took no action against the men but just watched them leave.

Of the local police and county officials, Liu said: “They told us that ‘you deserve this’ and said the case was closed.”

Another woman, Wang Caihong, supported Liu’s account on the microblog.

One of the victims had a broken leg and others suffered bruising to their bodies.

Officials with the Hui County government could not be reached yesterday.


Authorities in China are investigating reports that about 20 babies born in violation of population-control policies were abducted and then trafficked into adoption by officials.

The investigation comes after Caixin magazine reported this week that family planning officials in central China’s Hunan province had abducted children and sold them internationally – some to people in the United States and the Netherlands.

Chinese officials do not always enforce the “one child” policy with much vigour and the worst that violators normally expect is a fine.

The case, which is not the first to accuse Chinese family planning officials of abusing population control policies for profit, sheds further light on the uneven implementation of child-population-control policy.

One family claimed they had not broken the law as the child was their first, but family planning “enforcers” nonetheless took the baby away.

“They mistook my daughter for being illegal when my wife and I were working in Shenzhen,” migrant worker Yang Libing told the magazine.

Mr Yang said he had tracked down his daughter, now seven years old and living in the United States.

Family planning officials in Longhui county allegedly received $142 for each child handed over to welfare agencies, which in turn received up to $2,760 for each child put up for adoption overseas, it said.

The abductions peaked in the middle of the last decade but had been occurring for 10 years, the magazine said.

Trafficking of women and children remains a serious problem in China, with many sociologists blaming the one child policy for fuelling the crime.

Under the policy, aimed at controlling China’s world-leading population of more than 1.3 billion, people who live in urban areas are generally allowed one child, while rural families can have two if the first is a girl.

This has put a premium on baby boys, while baby girls are often sold off, abandoned or put up for adoption.

Official penalties for violating the policy vary based on location, but usually include a fine. Rights groups however allege that much more draconian measures are often taken.

In a report released in December, the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) cited widespread abuse including forced abortions, sterilisations, insertions of intrauterine devices and coerced testing for pregnancy.

Both men and women found to have violated the policy have been beaten, detained, or fined. Others have lost their jobs, or been denied household registration permits for their children, CHRD alleged.

China is battling a severe gender imbalance. A census recently completed in the country found 118.06 males were born in China to every 100 baby girls over the past 10 years.

Up to 80,000 Chinese children have reportedly been adopted by overseas families in recent decades, with most finding homes in the United States.

China’s population has increased to 1.34 billion but more people are ageing, a development experts say will likely spur calls for the “one-child” policy to be relaxed.

Census data gathered in 2010 and released on Thursday showed the population in the world’s second biggest economy grew by 5.84 percent from the 1.27 billion in the last census in 2000.

This level was smaller than the 1.4 billion some demographers had projected.

As China is fast urbanising and becoming older, these trends augur big changes in the labour market in coming years, the results showed.

The number of potential workers, especially from the countryside, is shrinking and the elderly dependent population is increasing.

By 2010, half of China’s population, 49.7 per cent, lived in urban areas. In 2000, 36.1 per cent lived in cities and towns, although that census used a different counting method.

By 2010, 261.4 million Chinese were counted as “migrants”, meaning they were residing outside of their home villages, towns or cities. Most of them are farmers from the poor inland who have moved to cities and coastal industrial zones to find work.

‘Historial landmark’

“What’s significant is that China is for the first time crossing a historical landmark from a country that’s dominated by people engaging in agriculture, living in the countryside, to an urbanised society,” said Wang Feng, a demographer who is director of the Brookings Institute Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Beijing.

“Such low fertility and population growth means that China will face a future smaller cohort of young labour for labour supply, and also a much more serious ageing process than people anticipated even 10 years ago or two decades ago.”

Those rapid changes have not always been smooth, Ma Jiantang, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics, told a news conference.

“The data from this census show that our country faces some tensions and challenges regarding population, the economy and social development. First, the ageing trend is accelerating, and second the size of the mobile population is constantly expanding.”

The results could encourage the government to relax family planning restrictions that limit nearly all urban couples to one child, while rural families are usually allowed two, said Du Peng, a professor at the Population and Development Studies Center at Renmin University in Beijing.

“The total population shows the general trend towards slowed population growth and as well an older population, and in the next five years or longer that will be an important basis for population policy,” said Du.

“The ageing of the population appears faster than was expected.”

Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, told a meeting of top Communist Party leaders convened to discuss population issues that China will maintain its strict family planning policy.

Demographers advocating changes to the one-child policy took a counterintuitive look at Hu’s speech, suggesting his decision to publicly address family planning now meant there was fresh debate among the leadership about how best to manage it.

The proportion of mainland Chinese people aged 14 or younger was 16.60 per cent, down by 6.29 percentage points from the number in the 2000 census. The number aged 60 or older grew to 13.26 per cent, up 2.93 percentage points.

Slower growth

The figures also showed that China’s population is growing more slowly than in the past. Between 1990 and 2000, the total population increased by 11.7 per cent.

China’s chief statistician, Ma, acclaimed the numbers as a vindication of the government’s firm, sometimes harsh, family planning policies.

“These figures have shown the trend of excessively rapid growth of China’s population has been under effective control,” Ma said.

But one economist said China’s slowed rate of population growth and shrinking pool of migrant labour from the countryside could add to long-term pressures driving up wages and prices.

“What really matters is the one-child policy that has created a cliff-fall (in the population) in the last three decades,” said Dong Tao, an economist at Credit Suisse in Hong Kong.

“That is starting to show in rural labour markets and the entire economy feels the pain as this becomes a major source of inflation,” he said in a telephone interview.

The shift of the population to urban areas has put great pressure on cities like Beijing and Chongqing and will likely to spur continued high levels of infrastructure spending in coming years.

The Chinese government’s strict controls on family size have brought down annual population growth to below 1 percent and the rate is projected to start falling in coming decades.

More than 50 per cent of the childbearing-age women in Beijing who are eligible for a second child under China’s family planning policy do not want to produce, said the “2010-2011 Beijing Social Development Blue Book” recently released by the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences.

The “Comparative Study on the Childbearing Will of Urban and Rural Only Child in Beijing” section of the blue book is a survey conducted by the Beijing Population Research Institute in 2006 and 2008 regarding the childbearing will of more than 2,000 only children in Dongcheng District, Haidian District and Changping District of Beijing.

The report pointed out that the childbearing will of females in Beijing is currently going towards the trend of having fewer children, later childbirth, and no clear gender preference. In addition, the only-children themselves dominate the reproductive behaviors, and the impact of policies on childbearing will gradually become minimal.

In addition, the blue book said that the per capita annual income of ordinary working families in Beijing stood at 22,000 yuan, amounting to the per capita monthly income of 1,833 yuan. The annual wage income of nearly 70 percent of ordinary workers is less than 30,000 yuan and the annual wage income of nearly 3 percent of workers is less than 12,000 yuan. Furthermore, only more than 14 percent of workers’ annual wage income exceeds 40,000 yuan.

Beijing (China Daily/ANN) – Fewer couples in China’s capital city, who violate the country’s family planning policy by having a second child, will be subject to the fines, according to the municipal commission of population and family planning.

Under the new guidelines, Beijing couples composed of two only children and who give birth to a second child will be fined only if both the mother is younger than 28 and the second child is born within four years of the birth of the first child.

In the past, such couples had to pay a fifth of their annual income if they had a second child either when the mother was younger than 28 or did not wait at least four years after the birth of the first child.

Not all couples, though, will be exempted from the policy. Those in which one partner has a sibling – or both partners do – will still be discouraged from having a second child.

The change comes amid wide speculation that China is planning to relax its family planning policy. But some believe it will fail to satisfy the public’s hopes.

Mu Guangzong, a professor of population research at Peking University, said the relaxed rules in Beijing are an improvement over the previous policy, but are not enough to help right China’s population imbalances and raise fertility rates.

Mu called for a relaxation of the family planning policy throughout China and for every couple to be allowed to have two children. The family planning policy has been credited in the past 30 years with easing short-term population pressures, but has placed greater stresses on pension systems, led to there being fewer women than men in China and depleted the pool of able-bodied laborers.

The current average fertility rate in China is between 1.4 and 1.8, but should be maintained at 2.1 to ensure the replacement of the population over time, Mu said.

Yang Zhizhu, a former law professor in Beijing who sued local family planning authorities in January 2011 for having a second child and refusing to pay a fine of 240,642 yuan ($36,962), saw little reason to praise the relaxation of the rules in Beijing.

Fines on couples who have a second child, even if they are paid by fewer people, remain legally unjust, Yang told China Daily on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the call for relaxing the one-child restriction is gaining momentum in other Chinese cities. Citing Zhang Feng, director of the provincial family planning commission, Guangzhou Daily reported earlier this month that Guangdong province would seek the central government’s approval to try out allowing all couples to have a second child.

Wang Yuqing, deputy director of the Committee for Population, Resources and Environment under the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said China may adjust its family planning policy during the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015).

Wang said birth rates in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai have been on the decline for years, and the size of the working-age population began to decrease since 2009.

A gradual relaxation of the policy, allowing couples to have a second child, will not lead to a sudden population increase, Wang said.

BEIJING — In the realm of eligible bachelors, Wang Lin has a lot to recommend him. A 28-year-old college-educated insurance salesman, Mr. Wang has a flawless set of white teeth, a tolerable karaoke voice and a three-year-old Nissan with furry blue seat covers.

“My friends tell me I’m quite handsome,” he said in confident English one recent evening, fingering his car keys as if they were a talisman.

But by the exacting standards of single Chinese women, it seems, Mr. Wang lacks that bankable attribute known as real property. Given that even a cramped, two-bedroom apartment on the dusty fringe of the capital sells for about $150,000, Mr. Wang’s $900-a-month salary means he may forever be condemned to the ranks of the renting.

Last year, he said, this deficiency prompted a high-end dating agency to reject his application. In recent months, half a dozen women have turned down a second meeting after learning that he had no means to buy a home. “Sometimes I wonder if I will ever find a wife,” said Mr. Wang, who lives with his parents, retired factory workers who remind him of his single status with nagging regularity. “I feel like a loser.”

There have been many undesirable repercussions of China’s unrelenting real estate boom, which has driven prices up by 140 percent nationwide since 2007, and by as much as 800 percent in Beijing over the past eight years. Working-class buyers have been frozen out of the market while an estimated 65 million apartments across the country bought as speculative investments sit empty.

The frenzy starts with the local governments that sell off land at steep prices, and is frothed up by overeager developers who force residents out of old neighborhoods, sometimes prompting self-immolations among the dispossessed. But largely overlooked is the collateral damage to urban young professionals, especially men, who increasingly find themselves lovelorn and despairing as a growing number of women hold out for a mate with a deed.

The marriage competition is fierce, and statistically, women hold the cards. Given the nation’s gender imbalance, an outgrowth of a cultural preference for boys and China’s stringent family-planning policies, as many as 24 million men could be perpetual bachelors by 2020, according to a report issued jointly by the Chinese Research Association of Marriage and Family and the All-China Women’s Federation.

Zhang Yanhong, a matchmaking consultant at Baihe, one of the country’s most popular dating sites, said many disheartened men had simply dropped out of the marriage market. “This fixation on real estate has twisted the popular notion of love and marriage,” she said. “Women are putting economic factors above everything else when looking for a mate and this is not a good thing for relationships or for society.”

The nation’s real-estate obsession is especially noteworthy given China’s relatively recent embrace of home ownership. The sale of residential property was not allowed until the late 1980s, and even then under a leasehold system that gives purchasers 70 years of ownership. Today, about two-thirds of all Chinese under 40 own their own homes, slightly higher than the average for Americans of the same age group.

With few other outlets for investment (those who park their money in a Chinese bank effectively lose money, given low interest rates and high inflation), many families have been plowing their savings into apartments, spurring what some economists describe as a bubble.

Han Han, one of China’s most widely read bloggers, frequently assails the government policies that he and many economists say have contributed to rapidly rising prices.

In an interview, he said one consequence of the single-minded focus on real estate, or on earning the money to make mortgage payments and repay family loans, is that young people have little time for anything else. “We’ve created a generation of young people whose sole ambition is to have a piece of property under their name,” he said.

Like many anxious bachelors, Yang Xuning, 29, a sportswriter from Beijing, said much of the pressure comes from parents who are taunted by the wealth around them. He recalls his first meeting with his girlfriend’s parents in Shanghai last winter, when he was asked about his salary and his nesting plans. “I tried to reason with her mother, explaining that it’s not practical to buy something at this stage in our lives but she wouldn’t hear it,” he said.

He stood his ground, she stood hers, and a few months later, on the second anniversary of their relationship, Mr. Yang’s girlfriend called it quits. “A lot of girls, encouraged by their parents, see marriage as a way of instantly changing their status without the hard work,” he said bitterly.

Many women are unapologetic about their priorities, citing the age-old tradition in which men provided a home for their brides, even if that home came with a mother-in-law. There are also other concerns, including the instability of starting a family in rented premises and the endless badgering of parents. Status also plays a role, but so, too, do fears that those who put off buying will be priced out of the market indefinitely.

Gao Yanan, a 27-year-old accountant with a fondness for Ray Bans and Zara pantsuits, said the matter was not up for debate. “It’s the guy’s responsibility to tell a girl right away whether he owns an apartment,” she said. “It gives her a chance not to fall in love.”

With such women on the prowl, even men who do have their own homes have come up with techniques to weed out the covetous and the inordinately materialistic. Liu Binbin, 30, an editor at a publishing house in Beijing, said he often arrived at first dates by bus, even though he owned a car. “If they ask me questions like ‘Do you live with your parents?’ I know what they’re after,” he said.

Mr. Liu said he went on 20 unfulfilling blind dates until finding a suitable girlfriend last year. He said he knew she was the one after passing the three-month mark.

“The whole time she thought I didn’t own an apartment and she still wanted me,” he said. “Someone like that is rare.”

Hong Kong is restricting the number of mainland Chinese women allowed to give birth in the city’s hospitals which are struggling to cope with the tens of thousands who arrive each year.

The number of mainland women who opted to deliver across the border accounted for nearly half of Hong Kong’s 88 thousand births last year. The Hong Kong government has placed a freeze on accepting non-local women into public hospitals until the end of December. It’s all part of a much broader picture: how Hong Kong can support an influx of babies that ultimately will have rights to education, employment and welfare.

Reporter: Sonja Heydeman
Speakers:Professor Gabriel Leung, Under Secretary for Food and Health, Hong Kong government

HEYDEMAN: Hong Kong’s government has come under immense pressure in recent weeks after doctors made a rare public call for a cap on the number of babies delivered in the city as resources for local mothers are stretched thin. The Hong Kong government’s Under Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Gabriel Leung says the main issue involves the capacity of the health system in both public and private sectors to deal with pregnant women who want to give birth in Hong Kong. He says the objective is for local Hong Kong women to have a place in a hospital of their choice.

LEUNG: My undersatnding in agreement with the private hospitals is they would be given priority and I’ve been given the reassurance that they have been given priority, even in the private sector since 2006. So that is the overiding policy objective number one. Then secondly the key question is how should we and what policy levers we should be using to ensure the highest possible quality of care for pregnant women to give birth in Hong Kong and this would apply to all pregnant women who give birth in our system and of course how could we make sure that any medical needs of newborn babies be taken care of best?

HEYDEMAN:Professor Gabriel Leung says a freeze on accepting non-local women in the public hospital system is a temporary stop gap measure.

LEUNG: While we try to plot a way forward in concert with all vested stakeholders into this particular issue. So in fact the public hospital bookings have been filled until October November. So for all intents and purposes we really have only one month left in 2011. And as for 2012 most of those babies have not yet been conceived so we still have a month or two to finalise our plans and then we will have a whole package of policy announcements to deal with this problem comprehensively.

HEYDEMAN: Many mainland Chinese mothers are keen to give birth in Hong Kong, because it will entitle their child to right of abode and education. In 2010, figures showed 40 thousand Chinese babies were born in Hong Kong .. accounting for 45% of all Hong Kong births .. a more than a 10% increase since 2005. Professor Gabriel Leung says clearly this is more than just a health services issue. He says it’s part and parcel of a much larger approach to population policy.

LEUNG: Really the obstetrics and the neo-natal health service is really the first of many issues we need to address comprehesively in the medium term, including if and when these newborns choose to as they come to Hong Kong for schooling, that would be an education issue and of course an employment which some view quite positively because Hong Kong like most developed nations has an aging population and a population pyramid that increasingly looks like and inverted triangle, rather than a true pyramid so that’s the labor issue. And then there would be associated welfare issues with regards to the provision of health services as well as other welfare services and social services to these newborn babies who would become Hong Kong permanent residents by birth.

HEYDEMAN: Professor Leung says these issues need to be discussed openly within the community.

LEUNG: What we need to do in the immediate future in the next month or two is to ensure the two overriding policy objectives are met in terms of the health services and then in the medium term to really think through, throughly discuss and flesh out all the issues with regards to education, welfare, social services and ultimately the population policy the make up of Hong Kong society in the coming decades.