RIC Query - China (21 January 2004)


China

Response to Information Request Number: CHN04001.WAS
Date: January 21, 2004
Subject: China: Information on Return to China After Having Children Abroad
From: USCIS Resource Information Center
Keywords: China / Family allowances / Family benefits / Family planning / Reproductive rights / Rural women / Social assistance

Query:

Provide information on whether a rural Chinese woman would face punishment after returning to China with two children born abroad. Does the fact that the children are U.S. citizens make any difference?

Response:

Relatively little information is available to the Resource Information Center (RIC) within time constraints on the treatment of rural Chinese women who return to China with children born outside the country. For this reason, it is unclear whether the fact that the children are U.S. citizens makes any difference.

Likewise, in an August 2003 Response to Information Request, the Research Directorate of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board wrote: "Information on the situation for a Chinese national returning to China with two foreign-born children and whether the children or parent would be penalized under the one-child policy was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate" (IRB 7 Aug 2003). The Canadian response cites the September 2001 RIC report on family planning in China [cited below] and the 1980 Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China.

The University of California (Irvine) anthropologist who is an expert on China's population control policy, and who co-authored the 2001 RIC report, said in an email to the RIC that, "[i]n general, people who return to China from abroad are actively welcomed back to the 'motherland,' and children born outside China largely forgiven" (Expert 13 Jan 2004). The expert added, however, that she knew of few specific cases where the returning mother was from rural China. She noted that China's one-child policy generally allows rural couples to have two children if the first is a girl. The second child needs to be born three to four years after the first, and couples are fined if the spacing between births is too short (Expert 13 Jan 2004).

The 2001 RIC report similarly notes that, "[t]he question frequently arises whether Chinese couples who have an unauthorized child while residing abroad are likely to face penalties upon returning to China. The evidence available suggests that, in many if not most cases, the answer is no" (RIC 28 Sep 2001). The report, however, discussed this question largely in relation to returning students and other educated Chinese, as opposed to Chinese from rural areas with little education.

A China specialist at the U.S. State Department told the RIC that his office presently had little information on the treatment of returning Chinese who had children while abroad. The specialist added that actual implementation of China's population control policy varies considerably throughout the country, and that some people in southern Fujian and Guangdong provinces had reported no problems in returning after having children abroad (U.S. DOS/DRL 20 Jan 2004).

However, a retired China analyst at the U.S. Census Bureau said in a telephone interview that "there is no reason to expect" that women who have children abroad will be treated differently than those who give birth in China (Retired analyst 21 Jan 2004). He said that allowing women who have children outside China to be exempted from the policy upon return would undermine the policy, yet he did say that he had no specific information on the treatment of rural women who return to China after giving birth abroad (Retired analyst 21 Jan 2004).

PENALTIES UNDER THE FAMILY PLANNING POLICY

While the Chinese government's official policy is to punish "out of plan" births with fines, called "social compensation fees," its stated policy also opposes the use of physical coercion to force parents to have abortions or be sterilized. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that such coercive measures at times are used (RIC 28 Sep 2001).

A U.S. State Department assessment team that visited China in May 2002 reported that the country's population programs "retain coercive elements in law and in practice," citing evidence of coerced abortions in addition to stiff fines for "out of plan" children (U.S. DOS 25 Jul 2002). The team was sent to China to investigate reports that coerced abortion or forced sterilization was used in some of the 32 counties where the UN Population Fund was sponsoring a special pilot family planning program (U.S. DOS 25 Jul 2002).

The U.S. State Department's annual human rights report for 2002 notes that "intense pressure to meet birth limitation targets set by government regulations has resulted in instances in which local birth planning officials reportedly have used physical coercion to meet government goals" (U.S. DOS 31 Mar 2003). The report notes that while it is nearly impossible to determine how often forced sterilization occurs, "it was believed that some isolated incidences may persist, even as the frequency of such cases was believed to be declining" (U.S. DOS 31 Mar 2003).

Prominent human rights activist Harry Wu told the U.S. Congress in October 2001 that in the eastern Chinese city of Tianjin, one of four cities under direct central government control, "cadres at all levels" use forced abortion and sterilization to meet rigid birth control quotas (HIR 17 Oct 2001). Testifying before the House International Relations Committee, Mr. Wu, the executive director of the Washington-based Laogai Research Foundation and a Hoover Institution Fellow, said that these extreme measures are used because Tianjin holds the heads of state work units directly responsible for all births by employees in their charge (HIR 17 Oct 2001).

Some observers suggest that such abuses are the exception rather than the rule. "Scattered evidence suggests that in some places where couples insist on having more children than allowed, cadres continue to use heavy-handed, even abusive, measures," according to the 2001 RIC report (RIC 28 Sep 2001). The report added, however, that "[t]here is no way to know how widespread such practices are" (RIC 28 Sep 2001).

BACKGROUND

China's population control policy requires most urban couples to have only one child. Exceptions exist for couples meeting certain conditions, such as where both parents are only children. In most rural areas, including towns of under 200,000 population¿ where almost two-thirds of Chinese live¿ a looser "1+1" policy often is applied, permitting couples to have a second child if the first is a girl. Families whose first child is disabled may also have a second child. Moreover, in some, mainly poorer, rural areas, couples are regularly permitted to have two children. Ethnic minorities also face looser birth controls, although officials are increasingly pressuring minorities to follow the same birth control guidelines as the majority Han Chinese. Even for Han Chinese living in cities, where controls are strictest, evidence suggests that the policy recently has been relaxed somewhat (U.S. DOS 31 Mar 2003).

The law requires couples who have an unapproved child to pay a fine and grants preferential treatment to couples who follow the birth limits. The fines are "generally extremely high, sometimes equaling several years' wages for an average worker" (U.S. DOS 31 Mar 2003). Additional disciplinary measures for violating the birth policies include denial of social services, higher tuition costs when the child goes to school, job loss or demotion, loss of promotion opportunity for a year or longer, expulsion from the Party, and, in some cases, destruction of property (U.S. DOS 31 Mar 2003).

A new Population and Family Planning Law, China's first formal law on its population control policy, took effect in 2002 (U.S. DOS 31 Mar 2003). Information on the implementation of this law is available in the 17 September 2003 Canadian Response to Information Request CHN41712.E17, CHINA: INFORMATION ON THE POPULATION AND FAMILY PLANNING LAW, ITS ADMINISTRATION AND IMPLEMENTATION (2002-2003) [attached].

For further information on the subject of children born to Chinese citizens overseas, see the 12 June 2002 RIC Response to Information Request CHINA: INFORMATION ON TREATMENT OF RETURNING PEASANTS AND WORKERS WHO VIOLATED THE ONE-CHILD FAMILY PLANNING POLICY WHILE ABROAD, CHN02002.ZNY.

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References:

Expert on China's family planning policy. Email to the USCIS Resource Information Center (Irvine, CA: 19 Jan 2004).

Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information and Research Branch (IRB). CHINA: INFORMATION ON THE POPULATION AND FAMILY PLANNING LAW, ITS ADMINISTRATION AND IMPLEMENTATION (2002-2003). Response to Information Request (Ottawa: 17 Sep 2003, CHN41712.E17).

Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information and Research Branch (IRB). CHINA: THE SITUATION FOR A CHINESE NATIONAL RETURNING TO CHINA WITH TWO FOREIGN-BORN CHILDREN AND WHETHER THE CHILDREN OR PARENT WOULD BE PENALIZED UNDER THE ONE-CHILD POLICY; NATURE OF THE PENALTY; WHETHER THE CHILDREN WOULD AUTOMATICALLY BE CHINESE CITIZENS. Response to Information Request (Ottawa: 7 Aug 2003, CHN41732.E7).

INS Resource Information Center (RIC). CHINA: INFORMATION ON TREATMENT OF RETURNING PEASANTS AND WORKERS WHO VIOLATED THE ONE-CHILD FAMILY PLANNING POLICY WHILE ABROAD. Response to Information Request (Washington, DC: 12 Jun 2002, CHN02002.ZNY).

INS Resource Information Center (RIC). CHINESE STATE BIRTH PLANNING IN THE 1990S AND BEYOND. Perspective Series (Washington, DC: 28 Sep 2001).

Retired analyst. Telephone interview with the USCIS Resource Information Center (Silver Spring, MD: 21 Jan 2004).

U.S. Department of State (U.S. DOS). COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 2002, "China" (31 Mar 2003), http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18239.htm [Accessed 19 Jan 2004]

U.S. Department of State (U.S. DOS). "Report of the China UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Independent Assessment Team" (posted 25 Jul 2002), http://www.firstgov.gov/fgsearch/resultstrack.jsp?sid=109644947&url=http://www.state.gov/g/prm/rls/rpt/2002/12122.htm [Accessed 19 Jan 2004]

U.S. Department of State (U.S. DOS/DRL). Telephone interview with China specialist in the Office of Country Reports and Aslyum Affairs, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (Washington, DC: 20 Jan 2004).

U.S. House of Representatives, International Relations Committee (HIR). "Coercive Population Control in China: New Evidence of Forced Abortion and Forced Sterilization." Hearing Before the Committee on International Relations (17 Oct 2001), http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa75761.000/hfa75761_0f.htm [Accessed 19 Jan 2004]

Attachments:

Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information and Research Branch (IRB). CHINA: INFORMATION ON THE POPULATION AND FAMILY PLANNING LAW, ITS ADMINISTRATION AND IMPLEMENTATION (2002-2003). Response to Information Request (Ottawa: 17 Sep 2003, CHN41712.E17).

Immigration and Refugee Board, Documentation, Information and Research Branch (IRB). CHINA: THE SITUATION FOR A CHINESE NATIONAL RETURNING TO CHINA WITH TWO FOREIGN-BORN CHILDREN AND WHETHER THE CHILDREN OR PARENT WOULD BE PENALIZED UNDER THE ONE-CHILD POLICY; NATURE OF THE PENALTY; WHETHER THE CHILDREN WOULD AUTOMATICALLY BE CHINESE CITIZENS. Response to Information Request (Ottawa: 7 Aug 2003, CHN41732.E7).

Last Reviewed/Updated:

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