- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2001

BEIJING (Agence France-Presse) China's legislature yesterday adopted the country's first law on population control and family planning, aimed at further promoting the widely criticized one-child policy.
The law was adopted at the 25th session of the standing committee of the National People's Congress, state media said.
Li Peng, chairman of the legislature, said the law would "stabilize" China's 21-year-old family planning policy.
China's current one-child policy is not a law, but legislators had argued for years that codifying the policy would clear up confusion.
The policy restricts the number of children couples can have to one for city residents and two for rural workers, if their first child is a girl.
Ethnic minorities are permitted to have two or three children because of their small population and because they live in areas with harsh natural conditions.
The government has acknowledged its family-planning policy has led to excesses such as infanticide, forced abortions and selective abortion of female fetuses by couples who preferred sons.
The abuses have in turn led to a ratio of 117 boys born to every 100 girls in China, much higher than the international average of 106 to 100.
Critics, however, say China could prevent excess births by raising peasants' incomes and setting up a social security system for the elderly who rely on their children, especially sons, to take care of them in their old age.
The new law is expected to clarify some gray areas of the policy and provide prosecutors with the means to clamp down on overzealous family-planning workers who kill newborn babies to make sure their area has fewer violations.
The law would also encourage women to marry and have children at a later age, the official news agency Xinhua said.
It also prohibits the use of ultrasound technology to determine the gender of the fetus and abortion based on gender preferences, both of which are widespread in rural areas.
"It is about time to introduce this legislation, as the idea of family planning and the importance of reproductive health have been widely accepted by the public," the China Daily quoted Gu Jinchi, a legislator, as saying during a panel discussion on the draft law.

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