The highest health authority in China has denied that it would relax bans on birth control in the country’s northeast.
Last week, the National Health Commission hypothesized that the number of children may have families in three provinces, Heilongjiang, Liaoning and Jilin, would end limits after it said it would encourage them to experiment with new policies to reverse the decrease in population in the region.But on Saturday (Feb 20) it issued a clarification saying that was the wrong interpretation of its comments and it was “not the [NHC’s] intention”.“We believe that there are various reasons behind the long-term population decrease in the northeastern area and it’s not an issue that can be solved solely by lifting birth restrictions,” it said in the latest statement.
“The suggestion to cancel restrictions in the northeast needs comprehensive and thorough study.”
The National People’s Congress, the highest legislature of the country that will hold its annual meeting next month, asked the commission to respond to a request to remove restrictions on the region’s family sizes.
The response of the commission published on Wednesday (Feb 17), which claimed that after carrying out further studies, the provinces could implement new policies, was widely interpreted by newspapers and members of the public as an indication that Beijing was considering abandoning its controversial birth control policies.
In 2015, China ended its one-child policy and began encouraging all couples to have two children, but the relaxation has failed to stop the drop in birth rates. In Heilongjiang, the northernmost province, the government also encourages several border towns and cities to allow three-child families.
Last year, Chen Xiangqun, vice governor of Liaoning, who is also a delegate to the NPC, proposed a suggestion that the northeastern rust belt should become the first region to remove the constraints since its population has been dropping for two decades. He also called for further spending by the central government in childcare and pre-school education.
When it came to easing birth restrictions, it noted that the policy would have a limited impact on fertility rates, adding: “We believe the northeastern region can make its own investigations based on local realities.”The northeastern provinces, which kick-started China’s industrialisation in the 1950s, now have the lowest birth rates and the greatest economic burden from caring for the elderly in China.