WASHINGTON A Chinese government institute has recommended Beijing revoke its "one-child" policy that has forced abortion and sterilization upon millions of its citizens during the last three decades.
A Christian human rights advocate, however, says it is premature to conclude the communist regime will actually implement the proposal.
The recommendation offered by a think tank under the State Council, China's Cabinet called for phasing in termination of the coercive population control program, according to the Associated Press. The foundation recommended:
• An immediate two-child policy in some provinces.
• A national two-child policy by 2015.
• An end to all birth limits by 2020.
China's population control program, which began officially in 1980, generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children. Couples who violate the policy face the threat of large fines, job loss and imprisonment.
The policy also has resulted in many accounts of authorities carrying out forced abortions even in the last three months of pregnancy and sterilizations. There also have been many reports of infanticide, especially of female babies. The policy has helped produce a dramatic gender imbalance because of the Chinese preference for sons.
While the recommendation from the China Development Research Foundation appears to be a hopeful breakthrough, the timing makes it predictable, said Mark Shan of United States-based ChinaAid. China's communist regime will begin its once-a-decade transition to new leadership Nov. 8.
"We're not surprised to see such news appear right now ... because this is the time we know the central government shift is happening," Shan told Baptist Press.
One camp within the Communist Party seeks reform while the other wants to defend traditional communist ideology, said Shan, news analyst for ChinaAid. If the reform wing can gain majority control, it likely would change the one-child policy because of the significance of the program's impact domestically and internationally, he said, noting that nearly all people inside and outside China condemn the policy.
"Of course it's real encouraging to see this kind of news leak out," Shan told BP. "I don't think we can say [the government] will do that."
Another observer of China seemed to be more optimistic. Such a public plan from government demographers is extraordinary, said Cai Young, who teaches sociology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, according to AP.
"That tells us at least that policy change is inevitable, it's coming," said Cai, a visiting scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai. "It's coming, but we cannot predict when exactly it will come."
The foundation issued the recommendation Oct. 26, saying declining economic growth and social problems including the gender imbalance and aging workforce in the world's most populous country have replaced population growth in significance, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
It is not the first call this year from within the Chinese government for reform of the one-child policy. In early July, government researchers and high-profile Chinese scholars urged in published statements that the population control program be revised.
In September, All Girls Allowed an American pro-life organization that focuses on China's one-child policy reported the government had put an end to forced abortion and sterilization. Women's Rights Without Frontiers and the Population Research Institute U.S.-based organizations that also combat China's coercive program said the report was premature and based on Chinese propaganda.
Several accounts this year of forced abortions in the last half of pregnancy have brought China's coercive program unwelcome attention and international condemnation.