Three million Chinese children 'hidden'
As many as three million Chinese babies are hidden by their parents every year in order to get around the country's one-child policy, a researcher has discovered.
Since 1978, China's government has limited each couple to one child, carrying out forced abortions and sterilisations, and monitoring women's IUDs to control the population. In recent years, the policy has relaxed towards rural couples and couples who are only children themselves.
These parents are permitted to have two children, but for any others violating the policy, the penalties can be harsh. Large fines are levied, houses are often demolished and offenders are sometimes sent to jail.
In millions of cases, families are prepared to take the risk, according to research by Liang Zhongtang, a demographer and former member of the expert committee of China's National Population and Family Planning Commission.
Mr Liang has discovered discrepancies in China's census.
"In 1990, the national census recorded 23 million births. But by the 2000 census, there were 26 million 10 year-old children, an increase of three million," he said.
His findings suggest that the one-child policy may not have the grim consequences widely predicted.
According to China's own figures, the traditional desire among Chinese families to have a boy, coupled with the one-child regime, should produce a surfeit of 30 million men by 2020, with many parents allegedly using ultrasound to guarantee the sex of their child.
Policy-makers have warned that these millions of frustrated men, who would be unable to find wives, could wreak havoc on Chinese society, leading to a steep rise in prostitution and violence. Mr Liang said the imbalance was "definitely not as severe as the statistics suggest". (© Daily Telegraph, London)