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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2006, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
China vow on sex-based abortion
Newborn babies in China's Qinghai province
Officials say cases of selective abortion have been prosecuted
China will punish health workers who help to abort female foetuses, despite a recent decision not to criminalise the practice, an official said.

China's legislature scrapped a bill in June that would have introduced fines and prison terms for aborting girls.

But an official said that did not mean there was any relaxation in the policy against selective abortion.

The practice stems from a preference for sons, especially in rural areas, and China's one-child policy.

As a result, official figures suggest there are 119 boys born for every 100 girls in China, Xinhua news agency said, a figure much higher than the global ratio of 103 to 107 boys for 100 girls.

However, some population experts are cautious about these figures, suspecting that some female births go unreported.

'No relaxation'

An official with the State Commission for Population and Family Planning (SCPFP) told the agency that family planning laws still forbade selective abortion for non-medical purposes.

"The decision to not criminalise sex selection abortions does not mean any policy relaxation," he said.

Authorities have prosecuted 3,000 cases of selective abortions for non-medical purposes over the last two years, the agency said.

This comes as an activist who raised concerns about forced abortion and sterilisation in Shandong province is set to be tried on public order offences.

Map of China

Chen Guangcheng had accused officials in Linyi city of forcing people to have abortions or sterilisations to enforce the one-child policy.

Chen was due to go on trial in July, but the court hearing was postponed.

An article in Time magazine in September 2005 claimed that some 7,000 people had been sterilised against their will in Shandong.

Several workers were later arrested or sacked over the claims, state media reported.

China brought in its one-child policy 25 years ago, in a drive to curb population growth.

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