MASSACRE OF INNOCENTS; STORY OF BABY 59 TURNS THE SPOTLIGHT ON CHINA'S ONE-CHILD POLICY Barbaric Experiment in Social Engineering Has Cost Millions of Young Lives
THE image of the distressed newborn wailing as he was cut free from a sewage pipe shocked the world.
The survival of Baby 59 - named after the hospital incubator where he recovered from his ordeal - made headlines around the world.
For people in China, however, the case touched a raw nerve and triggered a frenzy of introspection.
"This shames our nation," Beijing blogger Zhong Zi Wei posted. "We are worse than animals. The one-child policy has turned us all into brutes."
Another, Fu Hei Dou from Guangzhou, wrote: "It must seem to the world that China is a country that puts no value on human life."
The fact Baby 59 is alive is a freakish slice of fortune in a country where tots are discarded and common humanity takes second place to Communist Party decree.
Thousands of women in China are subjected to forced abortions every year, even in late stages of pregnancy, if they violate the onechild policy and fail to pay fines. Outrages that would be classed as murder or manslaughter elsewhere are routinely committed by officials enforcing the 34-year-old law.
Last June, seven-months-pregnant Feng Jianmei was injected with a chemical to kill her unborn child because she couldn't afford the PS4000 fine for having a second child.
A photo posted online of the bereft 27-year-old lying in hospital in Shaanxi province with her stillborn daughter caused uproar. But though officials were sacked, none were prosecuted.
Introduced by Deng Xiaoping in 1979 to curb an anticipated population explosion, the one-child policy is the world's biggest exercise in population control.
City dwellers are allowed only one child. In rural areas, couples can have a second child if the first is a girl. Only minorities like Tibetans and Mongolians are exempt.
Fines range from around PS260 to PS8500 but families must then pay thousands more in lifelong levies for health and education costs.
The policy is ruthlessly enforced. Feared family planning units staffed by 300,000 workers and 80million volunteers are notorious for snooping on neighbours.
They have the power to confiscate livestock and even the homes of families with illegal children, and can force pregnant women to have abortions and be sterilised.
Mums who have had their one legal child are forced to have intra-uterine devices fitted that they cannot remove, to prevent them falling pregnant again.
Family planning chiefs chart the menstrual cycle and pelvic examination results of every woman of childbearing age.
More than 300million abortions have been carried out since the policy was introduced and more than 200million women sterilised.
Deaths of unwanted infants are so commonplace that dead babies, especially girls, are sometimes abandoned. In one horrific incident in 2001, pedestrians walked past the body of a baby girl left in the gutter of a street in Hunan province.
Eventually, an elderly man picked up the body, placed it in a box and put it in a bin. Police refused to take action and arrested a woman who photographed the scene.
Communist Party officials say the one-child policy has spared China the chaotic overpopulation of India, whose numbers will soon pass China's 1.3billion.
Critics call it a "barbaric experiment in social engineering" which has left China sitting on a demographic time-bomb.
Population expert Professor Paul Yip of Hong Kong University said the policy had thrown up two significant but unforeseen social consequences. …