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China

China’s Family Planning ‘Farce’: The Tale Of A Senior Citizen’s $47 Vasectomy

Liu Changjiang, 58, was never planning on having children. But that didn’t stop a local health clinic in Henan Province from giving him a vasectomy. Though the surgery won’t affect China’s population numbers, it does help Changjiang’s village meet its ann

One child per family policies still reign in Chinese cities (Praziquantel)
One child per family policies still reign in Chinese cities (Praziquantel)
Liu Jinsong

SHUNHO - Liu Changjiang is a villager from the Shunho District of Henan Province. He is single, has no family and lives in a senior's home. Luckily for him, he is one of the few people for whom the government guarantees a state retirement.

But recently, he was also the unlikely recipient of a vasectomy, which was performed at a local family planning clinic specializing in sterilization surgery. Among the family planning measures used in China, vasectomy is one of the most effective, typically practiced by couples who already have two children and are under 40 years old. Changjiang is 58.

As it would appear, Liu wasn't really "qualified" for the vasectomy. Not only is he childless, but in the eyes of local villagers, he is "a bit simple." Rumors are he's never even had a girlfriend. So why sterilize him? Most likely, say some locals, to fulfill the municipal government's family planning target numbers.

One day this past March, another resident at the nursing home, Wang, told Mr. Changjiang: "Let's go! I'm taking you to the hospital for a health examination!" Outside the home, someone was waiting to take them directly to the Yongcheng Family Planning Center.

Once at the clinic, Changjiang realized he was to undergo sterilization surgery. Naturally, he was very reluctant. So Wang, Changjiang's best friend from the nursing home, said: "If you do it, you'll be paid."

"How much?" Changjiang wanted to know.

"Three hundred yuan ($47)," Wang replied.

"Okay!" the now willing patient replied.

According to one Shunho official familiar with the episode, local authorities paid Wang 800 yuan ($125) to convince his friend to go through with the surgery. After paying 300 of that to Changjiang, Wang ended up with 500 yuan, or $78.

Pressure from the top

Why is the local village willing to fork out this kind of cash to "fake" its sterilization obligations? Because of pressure from on high. One anonymous village official confirmed that the local government has a family planning goal to meet each year, so each village is given a vasectomy and abortion quota.

In the past three years, the annual quota for Changjiang's village was eight vasectomies and five abortions. The quota is set based on population size. "If we do no meet the target, the village will be penalized," the anonymous town official explained.

The problem for the town is that people rarely agree to be sterilized. "Nobody really goes for vasectomy any more," said one woman being examined in the Yongcheng Family Planning Center. "Everybody bribes the officials to get false certificates. Vasectomy is very harmful. After a man has it done, he won't be able to do heavy work any more."

A false certificate can cost thousands of yuan, the woman added. But there are discounts available for people who have friends among the town's party officials, according to one worker at the Yongcheng Family Planning Center.

The certificates themselves, however, don't solve the quota problem. A man can use a fake certificate to "escape the knife," but the quota numbers won't be tallied off until someone actually goes through with the surgery. Thus the need for people like Changjiang, who serve as "replacements." According to the local official: "the doctor does not check the identity of the person who undergoes surgery".

Returning to the nursing home, Changjiang told the facility's director about the vasectomy surgery. The man didn't believe him until he took Changjiang for a check up in the home's medical center. At least Changjiang is now exempt from doing any heavy work at the facility.

Changjiang's nephew first heard about the surgery a month after it was performed. He didn't dare complain to local authorities. All he said was: "Tell me, isn't this a farce that a 60-year-old who is not even married can be taken for a vasectomy?"

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