- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2004

HONG KONG — China faces a serious shortage of women in the coming decades, threatening family and social stability in the world’s most populous country.

Official statistics show that in 2002, for every 100 newborn girls, there were 117 boys born. If this trend continues, China will have up to 40 million more men than women by 2020.

Demographic experts warn that the shortage of women in China will pose serious problems for the country if the trend is not halted.

The surplus of men may trigger such sex-related crimes as rape, prostitution, the abduction of women and mercenary marriages. They also point to the harmful physical and emotional consequences for women given the current trend of aborting baby girls.

The statistics came as a shock at a session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference currently under way in Beijing. Li Weixiong, vice chairman of the conference’s population, resources and environment committee, said the report’s projections required immediate action.

“The disproportionate numbers of males and females have become more and more serious, especially in rural areas,” Mr. Li said at the conference.

According to census statistics, the predominance of male births is growing worse. In 1982, there were 108 boys born for every 100 girls, close to the worldwide ratio of about 105 to 100.

The 1990 census had 111.3 boys for every 100 girls, and in 2002, the disparity had grown again, to 116.9 to 100.

Mr. Li said the availability of modern medical technology has made the situation worse. Since ultrasound screening of embryos was introduced to China about a decade ago, more females have been aborted.

“Many parents just abort their baby once they find out they are expecting a girl,” a retired official from a women’s organization who wished to remain anonymous said in an interview.

Chinese family planning laws prohibit doctors from revealing the sonogram results to expectant parents, but Mr. Li said doctors who use the technology to check the baby’s health can often be talked into revealing its sex.

The veteran women’s rights official also said that it is still not unheard of for baby girls to be killed in rural areas. “Rural people still have a strong concept that they need to have a boy, since they can only have one child,” she said.

Orphanages in China are also overcrowded with girls. The Western world has discovered this fact, and parents flock to China to adopt these abandoned children.

Mr. Li said in his speech that such backward practices remain strong in the countryside and in southern China. In the southern provinces of Hainan and Guangdong, the ratio of male to female births is as high as 130 to 100.

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