Wealthy families that violate the country's family planning policy by having more than one child may be subject to increased penalty fines from this year, an official said yesterday.
Deng Xingzhou, chief of the capital's family planning commission, said the penalties will vary "depending on the families' annual income", instead of the average per capita.
Currently, the fine, or "social maintenance fee" as it is called, is usually three to eight times the average income per capita in Beijing, which according to 2008 official statistics was 24,725 yuan ($3,600) for urban residents and 10,747 yuan for rural residents.
Many affluent couples have been known to voluntarily pay the rather trivial fine to have a second or third child.
News of Chinese celebrities having more than one child has often stirred wide discussions on the legality of the second child's birth.
"The public does not appreciate the fact that the rich or famous can get away with breaking the family planning policy just by paying the fine, which is well within their means," Deng said.
Beijing will draft new rules for rich families, specifying correct ways to calculate penalties based on their annual income, he said.
Guangdong and Hubei provinces have also adopted measures to increase the fine for violators in a bid to achieve social justice.
However, many still believe increased penalties will not be enough to stop the rich from having more than one child.
Timothy Wong, an associate at a management consulting firm, said: "A one-off fine will not bother the rich. What they spend in a hospital will still cost a lot more than the penalty.
"Why not penalize the violators in the form of long-term taxation? That will make them think twice before having a second child."
Song Yini, a senior consultant at a Beijing-based consulting firm, said how the government utilizes the fines it collects should be made transparent to the public.
"Maybe the rich should be asked to donate directly to an orphanage or old people's home," she said.
Beijing is under tremendous pressure to achieve its goal of restricting its population to below 18 million by 2020.
By last year, Beijing's population had reached 16 million.
"Seeing how the population continues to grow, we will not be able to achieve the target," Deng had said earlier.
The capital will stick to the family planning policy, which as a fundamental national policy will exist for another 20 years, he said.
To encourage people to follow the rule, Beijing also plans to increase the subsidies for couples that abide by the rule.
"Three decades ago, the monthly subsidy of 5 yuan for parents with one child accounted for 10 percent of a worker's salary. But it seems too trivial now," he said.
China's family planning rule restricts only 35.9 percent of the population, mostly in large- and medium-sized cities, to have one child. Until last year, the policy has helped avert about 400 million births.
Source: China Daily