DOCTORS in southern China are working around the clock to fulfil a government goal to sterilise — by force if necessary — almost 10,000 men and women who have violated birth-control policies.

Family planning authorities are so determined to stop couples from producing more children than the regulations allow that they are detaining the relatives of those who resist.  About 1,300 people are being held in cramped conditions in towns across Puning county, in Guangdong Province, as officials try to put pressure on couples who have illegal children to come forward for sterilisation.

The 20-day campaign, which was launched on April 7, aims to complete 9,559 sterilisations in Puning.   A doctor in Daba village said that his team was working flat out, beginning sterilisations every day at 8am and working straight through until 4am the following day.

Zhang Lizhao (38), the father of two sons, aged 6 and 4, said that he rushed home late last night to undergo sterilisation after his elder brother was detained. His wife had already returned so that the brother would be freed.   Thousands have refused to submit and officials are continuing to detain relatives, including elderly parents, to force them to submit to surgery.

On April 10 ‘The Southern Countryside Daily’ reported on about 100 people packed into a damp 200sqm room at a township family planning centre.  An official at the Puning Population and Family Planning Bureau told ‘The Global Times’: “It’s not uncommon for family planning authorities to adopt some tough tactics.”

In Puning couples with illegal children and their relatives who apply for permits to build a house are rejected. Illegal children are refused residency registration, denying them access to healthcare and education.

Officials in Puning are under particular pressure: they risk failing in their bid for promotion to a second-tier county if they cannot meet all quotas. That includes keeping the number of births within limits.


One reason for Puning’s large population is that families in the mainly rural region often have up to three or four children.  Many have left to find factory jobs along the coast, taking advantage of being away from local government surveillance to give birth outside the quotas.  Rules in Puning allow farmers to have a second child if the first is a daughter. After that couples must stop. By the April 12 Puning officials said that they had achieved, in five days, about half of their goal after their “education” persuaded people to comply.