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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK
Chinese officials held over baby death
Chinese police have reportedly detained three officials who caused the death of a baby in central China while enforcing strict birth control rules.

chinese family
Most families are only allowed one child
Details in the China Daily were vague, but appeared to match recent newspaper accounts of a horrifying case where officials in Hubei drowned an infant in a flooded paddy field in front of his parents.

The Times of London said it was the woman's fourth child, a violation of China's one-child policy.

But it said the actions of the family planning officials in central Hubei province had caused such an outcry that the local government had promised to punish those responsible.

Charges

Chen Shengli, a spokesman for the State Family Planning Commission, told the China Daily the three officials were being investigated in relation to a case in Hubei and could face unspecified charges.

Mr Chen admitted that "coercive behaviour and law-violating conduct" did still exist in some areas because of the "varying quality of family planning workers" in different regions.

"Extreme actions in enforcing family planning regulations are prohibited and any violation... by family planning workers will be severely punished," he added.

'Forced abortions'

Since the 1970s, China has limited urban couples to one child. Some rural and ethnic minority families have been allowed more, especially if the first-born is a girl.

Those violating the policy are subject to exorbitant fines.

There have also been reports of officials forcing women to have abortions, and in some cases injecting them with saline solution to induce labour and kill their unborn child.

The one-child policy was introduced to ensure that China, which has historically been prone to floods and famine, could feed all its people.

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19 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
China targets religious group
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