ALEX COHEN, host:
In a Chinese province in Guangxi, the mood on the streets may feel a lot like Lebanon right now. Violent clashes between Chinese police and protestors have been going on there for several days. The cause of these riots: The province's crackdown on people who violate China's strict birth control policies.
Joining us now from Shanghai is NPR's Louisa Lim.
Louisa, the one-child policy exists throughout China, why are people protesting in this particular location?
LOUISA LIM: Well, the reason that people are protesting is that the one-child policy is being enforced far more strictly than elsewhere in China. We are hearing reports that people are being forced to have abortions and sterilizations against their will if they have more than one child. And we're also hearing reports that people who have had more than one child in the past are being force to pay very large fines, retrospectively. In some cases, as high as $9,000, which really represents many years of income. And those fines are being applied to family's who gave birth to more than one child even as early as 1980.
So a lot of people are being caught in the net. And it is quiet difficult to actually piece together what's happening, because there have been a news blackout on the protests in Guangxi. But what we're heard is the officials are basically going to people's houses, and if people can't pay, then they confiscating their property, and that includes their TV's, their farming implements, their animals, sometimes their chickens, their cows, even their rice.
COHEN: And this is not done gently. I've read reports of bulldozers going in.
LIM: Absolutely. And this type of enforcement is not happening elsewhere in China. And this is one of the reasons why the public anger spilled over in Guangxi, which has been culminating in these protests that took place at the end of last week and over the weekend.
COHEN: You spoke with an eyewitness there, what did that person tell you about what's been going on?
LIM: Well, we spoke to an eyewitness in (unintelligible) in Bobai County. And according to his report, what he saw was that on last Friday, May the 18th, more than 10,000 people gathered together and they gathered around the town government building. They were throwing stones at the government building. They were shouting slogans. And the slogans were things like we want human rights and the government policies are too extreme.
He says he saw 200 armored vehicles, he estimates, that were deployed to try and put down this protest separately. He says there were 400 to 500 paramilitary police and they were trying to persuade people to leave. Those who didn't were detained. And the eyewitness that we spoke to said that many of the people who were detained were later released, but that they had been very obviously beaten whilst in police custody.
COHEN: There's been more debate on the one-child policy in China recently, what's the current status of that law?
LIM: The government has said that it will continue to uphold the one-child policy. But there is, as you say, quite open debate about the extent to which it really is being upheld. In a lot of cases in the cities, people who are rich or famous, the sort of superstars, are paying the fine in order to have more than one child. And so, ordinary people are really angered by this. They see this as a symbol of the inequality of life in China, the wealth gap that, you know, rich people really can buy their way out of trouble and they're above the law.
But at the same time, there are quite a lot of people who do still support the one-child policy. They agree with the government's line that China's population is too large. And they do support the view that in order to guarantee China's economic development and its future prosperity, there should be caps on its population. So the view is still quite mixed.
COHEN: NPR's Louisa Lim in Shanghai. Thanks so much for joining us.
LIM: Thank you.
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