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21 February 2024

China holds two over baby death amid one-child anger


A Chinese official and a driver have been held on suspicion of manslaughter after a baby boy was run over and killed by a family planning agency car, authorities said Thursday amid online anger over the one-child policy.

The death of the 13-month-old triggered outrage both over the brutality of law enforcement in the country and the population control measures.

In the incident a total of 12 officials were confronting a family -- who already had two daughters -- in Ruian in the eastern province of Zhejiang, demanding that they pay a fine for the birth of the boy.

The father was holding the baby in his arms but dropped him when a local government official surnamed Bai stopped him from entering a vehicle to join his wife, the local authority said Thursday.

He was unable to pull the baby out of its path, it added.

Both Bai and a driver named Cheng have been detained by police on suspicion of negligent manslaughter, said a statement on 66ruian.com, a site run by the local government.

Bai is also a local Communist Party leader, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"We were required to pay 30,000 to 40,000 yuan ($4,800 to $6,400), otherwise they would have detained us," it quoted Chen Liandi, the father, as saying.

The maximum penalty for negligent manslaughter is seven years in prison.

The incident has provoked widespread anger on social media.

"They lost their humanity for money. They must be severely punished," said a user of the Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblog, adding terms of personal abuse.

Another commentator using the nickname Pearl Bay said: "Family planning is simply to kill people."

Under China's population controls most couples who have more than one child must pay a "social upbringing" fine, while in some cases mothers have been forced to undergo abortions.

China says the policy, instituted more than 30 years ago, has prevented overpopulation and promoted economic development.

There are exemptions for some rural families, ethnic minorities and couples who are both single children themselves.

But some experts have called for the restriction to be phased out as the country's labour pool shrinks and the ranks of the elderly swell, while rights groups criticise what they call harsh enforcement.

There was widespread outrage last year after a woman who had been forced to abort seven months into her pregnancy was pictured with the bloody foetus.