A local government in western China has reduced the fines given to a farmer who broke China’s draconian child laws by having eight children.
The fines were reduced from 2.6 million yuan (US$402,370) to 90,000 yuan (US$13,928) after years of negotiation with the family, Jiemian News reported on Monday.
Government birth control workers in Anyue county in Sichuan province have been considering a punishment for the farmer, who continued having children with his wife until they had two sons.
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Sharing China’s widespread obsession with male heirs, the man, aged 50 and identified by his surname Liu, fathered five girls with his ex-wife, before finally having two sons in 2006 and 2010 respectively.
They had another girl between the two sons, but gave her away to another family due to “too much financial pressure”, the report said.
He divorced his first wife in 2016 and has been raising the other seven kids with his new wife.
Under China’s family planning law, households that have more than the allowed number of children must pay a fine or “social support fee”. Local governments have their own regulations on how the fee should be calculated.
Related rules in Sichuan province have undergone several amendments over the past decade, as Beijing eased its birth control policies amid growing concerns about a rapidly ageing society.
Liu had been given fines repeatedly over the years as he had more and more children and had paid an unknown amount already, the report said.
In 2019, he was ordered to pay a sum of 2.6 million yuan for the last three children.
“We know that he wouldn’t be able to pay so much money. But we can’t turn a blind eye since he broke the law,” said an official from the local township government.
Three directors of the township’s family planning department have been penalised for failing to make him pay, he said.
The authorities finally decided to reduce the fine to 90,000 yuan to be paid in instalments earlier this year after consulting lawyers and a local court, the report said.
“I’ll pay what I have, after deducting expenditure for my children and parents’ daily lives. I will face it and pay as much as I can,” he was quoted as saying.
China started allowing each couple in the country to have up to three children in May, after ending the decades-long one-child policy and imposing a two-child limit in 2015.
However, having more children than the existing policy allows still results in large fines, often based on the average yearly income of local residents.
The current fine in Sichuan is triple that income for every extra child.
Those who fail to pay the fines theoretically can’t have hukou for their children, or permanent residence, registered with the local police, and will face difficulty enrolling their children in school or when travelling.
But all Liu’s kids have somehow received a hukou. While the first two children have been financially independent, the others are in school. Liu has been taking odd jobs in addition to farming to support his family.
He nearly “collapsed” when hearing about the 2.6 million yuan fine in 2019, he said. “Even 200,000 yuan is an unimaginable number for me.”
People with a lower standard of living and education level tend to cling to outdated ideas about the superiority of male children in China.
But there are also those at the top levels of society, such as director Zhang Yimou, who paid a total sum of 7.48 million yuan (US$1.1 million) in 2014 for having three children with his wife Chen Ting before they got married.
This article Man who broke China’s harsh child restriction laws by having 8 children gets massive fine reduction first appeared on South China Morning Post