Violent Protests over China's One-Child Policy Resume in Southern Province

Resentment toward China's one-child policy has led to a second round of violent protests in southwestern China's Guangxi Province. Joseph Popiolkowski reports from Hong Kong that peasants there are seeking refunds of fines imposed on them for having more children than allowed.

China's state-run media reported another wave of social unrest in Guangxi, as the central government increased pressure on local officials to maintain population control levels.

Protests over large fines imposed for violating the one-child policy erupted in the region two weeks ago. Official reports say several-hundred rural residents rioted again Tuesday, setting fire to furniture and government vehicles at a family planning office. The reports say the protesters were seeking refunds for the fines, which can top 13-hundred dollars.

China's one-child policy was implemented in the late 1970's to curb the growth of the population, which now stands at one-point-three billion. The policy mandates only one child per couple in most cases.

Nicholas Bequelin, China researcher for the rights group Human Rights Watch, says Guangxi is particularly prone to unrest, due to a long history of land seizures, economic disparities, official corruption and strict enforcement of the one-child policy.

He says local officials have been free to levy the fines arbitrarily - in some cases pocketing the money themselves - while enforcement of the policy has diminished elsewhere in the country.

"This is one of the provinces where the implementation of family planning is still very aggressively enforced, especially when you compare to what happens in more well-off eastern provinces and cities."

Bequelin says local officials are feeling "dual pressure," from what the central government is ordering them to do on the one hand, and what the local population wants on the other.

"This is one of the classic problems with the one-child policy: that the central government is instructing local governments to meet objectives, to meet quotas, to enforce this policy. And at the same time, the central government does not really want to know how this is done. And if this is done in an illegal or abusive way, then officials are sanctioned."

Rights groups condemn enforcement of the one-child policy as a violation of human rights, but Chinese officials say it has kept China's population from growing even larger than it already is.