China's family planning policy was challenged by rich people and celebrities who wanted to have more than one child, warned officials and experts.
Zhang Weiqing, the former director of the State Family Planning Commission, was quoted by Monday's China Daily as saying that the rich and famous who break the rules have cast a huge shadow over the policy, denting social equality and even stability.
Many mainland women gave birth in the Hong Kong special administrative region to skirt the restrictions, experts say.
To address these challenges, the National Population and Family Planning Commission is said to be considering a new policy curbing residents from having second or more babies outside the mainland.
"Due to the rising mobility of Chinese citizens and the social transformation from the country's reform and opening up from the late 1970s, it has become tougher to regulate the policy," Zhang said.
About a fifth of the people breaking the family planning rules are urban families, said Zhai Zhenwu, a sociology professor with Renmin University of China. The remaining are believed to be rural couples or migrant workers in cities.
Two years ago, the government increased the penalties by imposing a fine amounting to 10 times the annual average per capita income of the area the violators live in. The amount varies from 20,000 yuan in the countryside to 200,000 yuan in big cities.
"But this sort of fine is a piece of cake for the rich. So the government had to hit them harder where it really hurt - at their fame, reputation and standing in society," Zhai said.
The rich and famous, who broke the rules, have been stopped from receiving public honors. Pop stars can be barred from public shows or TV programs; and businessmen in the private sector, from government contracts.