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In celebration of the first relaxation of the one-child policy in nearly three decades, many Chinese couples visited the forbidden city holding Chinese flags the day after its announcement. AP image

by IRENE LY

Imagine being born the second child in a family, but without a true identity. That is what 20-year old Li Xue has to live with every single day. According to CNN, she has not spent a single day in school her entire life because she is a second child and thus not entitled to a state education under China’s infamous one-child policy. Despite having a love for learning, she could only use her older sister’s library card to borrow books to read and beg her for lessons. When she fell sick, she had to use her mother or sister’s identity card to buy medicine, making her virtually a person without her own identity. Li’s family lives in a more rural area where the policy is more relaxed, but her parents were unable to pay the 5,000 yuan (approximately $820) fine. As a result, authorities denied Li registration papers that would have entitled her to such basic necessities. Her parents persistently have petitioned to local and national authorities for Li to receive her papers, but have only been met with harassment and numerous beatings, one which found Li’s mother unable to get out of bed for nearly two months.

In wake of Li Xue’s story being revealed, China recently also has announced its plan for a series of reforms, the most notable of which is a change in the nation’s infamous and controversial one-child policy in an effort to improve human rights in the communist nation. The reform was announced after having been hinted at for months.

Under the revised one-child policy, couples now will be allowed to have a second child, but only if one of the parents is an only child, according to a report from the Xinhua news agency to CNN. This is not a major change from the current policy, which allows a couple to have a second child if both parents were only children. When this change will go into effect also remains up in the air. According to The New York Times, Wang Pei’an, a vice minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission said, “There will not be a uniform nationwide timetable for starting implementation.” A two-child policy is also said to be under debate by the government according to state media, but details have yet to be discussed and will not begin until at least after 2015.

The proposed revision, however, does not include the relaxation of consequences aimed at violations of the policy. Couples who breach the one-child policy must pay hefty fines and face brutal and violent repercussions, while the women are often forced into having an abortion. “I think fines is an okay way of enforcing the policy, but violent beatings and forced abortions is taking it too far,” said sophomore Michael Tho. “Since they cannot afford to pay the fines, the family ends up having to take desperate measure to protect themselves, which, in turn, victimizes an innocent child,” said senior Nhi Lo.

Though these changes are small, it’s a baby step in a positive direction. The question now becomes, will second children born under this new law be able to enjoy the life they’re entitled to like their older sibling, or will they continue to have the same fate as Li? “I think it’s good that they’re trying to lighten the restrictions,” said Lo. “[However,] the problem is what happens to the children who are born and how they are treated. The problem goes beyond just setting a number. It extends [the] gender biased mentality prevalent in the Chinese culture.” China can adjust the number, but whether it can truly improve life in the country remains debatable.