Anger over rich Chinese couple with eight children

Sat, Dec 24, 2011, 00:00

THE LAW in China requires couples to restrict themselves to one child, with some exceptions allowing for two children. So when a couple in the booming southern province of Guangdong had eight babies, including several born illegally to surrogates, the planned birth watchdogs launched an immediate investigation.

The news has caused a scandal in China, where the one-child policy of population control is widely disliked and there is anger when rich people flout the laws to have more children.

The couple were not identified by name but the Guangzhou Dailynewspaper said they were a wealthy pair who had spent nearly one million yuan (€120,000) on assisted reproduction techniques such as IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) and on hiring two surrogate mothers, who had given birth to five of the babies.

The woman involved was a successful businesswoman who had been unsuccessful in having children. The couple tried IVF and were surprised when all eight embryos continued to develop, an anonymous source told the paper.

“The couple were anxious to have babies and had no difficulty in affording test-tube babies, surrogates or living expenses, so they decided to keep them all,” he said.

They kept the story a secret but it was revealed when media discovered a picture of the babies – four boys and four girls – taken by a photography studio. They were born in September and October 2010.

The penalty for breaking the rules on planned birth is the imposition of a fine and a loss of some benefits such as free education and healthcare, but for many wealthy couples in China this is a price worth paying. Their children are known as “black children” and technically have no legal rights.

Many people already opt for private education and healthcare and do not mind missing out on the chronically underfunded health system and state schooling.

Guangdong provincial health bureau vice deputy chief Liao Xinbo said: “It’s like the rich should have the right to reproduce as often as they want? It’s absolutely wrong.”

China introduced its one-child policy in 1979 to restrict births in the world’s most populous nation.

According to data, the one-child policy has prevented 400 million births. China has relaxed the rules somewhat in recent years and some couples are allowed to have a second child, including ethnic minorities and couples where both were themselves single children.

There is pressure to reform the one-child policy, as more than three decades of it have led to a swiftly ageing population and pressure on younger Chinese to care for older citizens.