China one-child policy: Trauma and sympathy shared online

A student rests his head on a table inside a classroom of Dalu primary school in Gucheng township of Hefei, Anhui province, China, 8 September 2015. Image copyright Reuters

The abolition of China's controversial one-child policy has triggered an intense emotional discussion online, with netizens expressing a mixture of regret, bitterness and sympathy.

Many have been using the hashtag #Quanmianertai# - shorthand for "Freeing up all aspects to have a second child" - which has become a top trending topic on Thursday night and Friday on the Weibo microblogging network.

Sharing trauma

People have been sharing their own stories about how strictly the one-child policy had been enforced over the decades it has been in place.

"I can still remember when I was little, the family planning department broke down the door in my family home to grab my mum and sterilise her. I still carry this trauma to this day. What kind of methods would they use to make us have a second child?" wrote user MuziD-AiLee.

Her post attracted scores of sympathetic responses recounting similar experiences.

Image copyright AFP

"My first child turned out to be twin girls. Two and a half years ago, I was visited daily in my home by planning officials telling me to go for sterilisation. If I didn't get sterilised I would not get the hukou," said Shuangbaotaixiaoruhexiaoyi.

"So I was forced to be sterilised - I was only 23 at that time. My heart hurt so much then - I'm so young and I can't have any more children. I hate the family planning unit."

The hukou is China's identity registration system - officials often deny this to illegal children, making it difficult for them to travel around the country and gain access to state education and healthcare.

Read more: Children denied an identity under China's one-child policy

Image caption Zhang Rundong (background) was featured in a 2014 BBC piece on illegal children

Others told stories of how their families had to flee or were punished by officials for having more than one child.

"I can remember how officials would come in the middle of the night to catch people, everyone in my village would wrap up in their blankets and run to the cemetery at a nearby hill to spend the night," said Haohaomami3257673354.

"When my mother had my little brother, we were fined. We had no money so they took away our things in our home - our television set, our benches, even our food. After that there was still forced sterilisation, and now she has a disease. Who will take responsibility for this?" said Wannengjunren.

Lonely generation

Others shared sympathy for young Chinese born after 1979, characterising them as the only generation without any siblings.

"Those born in the 80s and 90s are perhaps now the only generation in the entire history of Chinese civilisation to not have any brothers or sisters... My heart aches for them," said user Laiquzhijian, in a post that was shared more than 47,000 times online.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The one child policy was enacted in 1979, and Chinese youth today have mostly grown up without siblings

Others expressed bitterness at the heavy burden this generation would have in supporting their parents and grandparents, and the perceived lack of support from the Chinese government.

Zhaonenenene posted a picture of what appeared to be a series of newspaper editorial headlines throughout the decades, apparently reflecting the shift in government sentiment.

A 1985 headline reads: "Just having one is good, the government will take care of the elderly". One from 2005 reads: "When taking care of the elderly one cannot rely on the government!"

Image copyright Weibo

The good life

Some, however, said they were happy to have been only children, and that they planned to stick to having one child themselves.

"You have the love of the whole family, you have the most leeway to spend money, you can have all that your heart desires, your parents have more spending money and more time to enjoy life, why would you want another sibling?" said Waguzhongren.

Hongyanxibaby shared several pictures of herself and a girl who appeared to be her young daughter, including one where the girl is clutching keys to a Volkswagen vehicle.

Image copyright Weibo

She said: "They've told us not to waste our genes and have another. Too bad we have the money to have a child but not to raise it - and I mean raise it in wealth."

"I'm not willing to have children just so that they grow up poor."

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