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. Premier says China will stick with one-child policy

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 5, 2008
China will stick with its strict family planning rules, Premier Wen Jiabao said Wednesday, in an apparent rebuttal to officials who raised the possibility of changes to the one-child policy.

"We will adhere to the current policy of family planning, keep the birthrate low, improve the health of newborns and adopt a full range of measures to address the gender imbalance in babies," Wen told the annual parliament.

Last week, Zhao Baige, vice minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said the policy had "become a big issue among decision-makers".

Wu Jianmin, a spokesman for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to parliament, seemed to back up Zhao's comments at the weekend, media reports said.

"The one-child policy was the only choice we had, given the conditions when we initiated the policy," Wu said, according to reports.

However, he added, "when designing a policy we need to take into consideration the reality."

"So as things develop, there might be some changes to the policy and relevant departments are considering this," Wu said, without giving any specifics.

China's family planning policy began in the late 1970s as a way to prevent the world's largest population -- now at 1.3 billion people -- from exceeding the country's capacity to feed it.

Generally, urban families can have one child and rural families can have two if the first is a girl.

The policy has averted about 400 million births, the government says, although it has created a large gender imbalance in favour of males.

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