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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Birth rates, Taiwan and sex education: China’s parliament proposals

“Multiple NPC deputies have called for measures to boost the country’s birth rates, which fell to lows not seen in decades last year”

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As China gears up for a meeting of its rubber stamp National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, lawmakers are offering clues about what new proposals might be on the table.

With voting tightly controlled and no legislation likely to pass without the approval of the country’s top leadership, lawmakers have little to no scope to enact major changes.

Submitted proposals are nearly always approved overwhelmingly by the pliant chamber, and this year they run the gamut from geopolitical posturing to animal welfare.

Here are some of the proposals:

Taiwan

NPC deputy Li Yihu told the China Review News Agency he will submit proposals on promoting “civil exchanges” between mainland China and Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy Beijing considers part of its territory that it will one day reclaim.

Li said that over the past year Beijing’s “overall strategy for resolving the Taiwan issue” had firmed up, adding that “the mainland will push national unification onto a fast track.”

The Chinese government has in recent years stepped up its rhetoric and actions towards the island, with President Xi Jinping saying last year that use of force would remain on the table and that “reunification of the motherland must be achieved.”

Promoting births

Multiple NPC deputies have called for measures to boost the country’s birth rates, which fell to lows not seen in decades last year.

Screenwriter and NPC delegate Zhao Dongling wants all children born after 2024 to enjoy free education up till their last year at university.

Maternity benefits should also be extended to self-employed and rural women in the form of “birth benefit” payments, as current policies only apply to women working full-time, Zhao told Chinese media.

Authorities may also consider allowing unmarried mothers to enjoy the same rights as married women, representative of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)—a consultative body with little to no power—Xie Wenmin told the state-run Global Times.

They could also remove restrictions on registering the children of unwed parents, she added.

Cyberbullying

Electronics tycoon and NPC representative Li Dongsheng has called for China’s parliament to pass a law against online bullying, as the country lacks a precise legal definition of cyberbullying.

Li’s proposal follows multiple high-profile cases of cyberbullying in China, including the death by suicide of a young woman after online trolls attacked her for sporting pink hair in a social media photo.

Shaping the young

China must crack down on the “chaos” of the child influencer industry, and strengthen supervision of online content and livestreams featuring children, in order to protect their “healthy growth,” NPC deputy Fang Yan has said.

And fellow NPC delegate Chen Wei told state media that kindergartens should be equipped with sex education textbooks and teaching materials.

“Establishing robust understanding of sexuality from an early age is conducive to the improvement and development of one’s personality in society,” Chen said.

Pets not food

Also on the cards is legislation cracking down on the slaughter, sale and consumption of dog and cat meat, said NPC delegate and agricultural scientist Zhao Wanping.

Zhao told Chinese media that Beijing must “severely punish the indiscriminate hunting of animals as well as animal cruelty.”

Fireworks

Authorities should respond to “the public’s demand to set off fireworks” during holidays, Zhao also suggested.

Fireworks and firecrackers are a traditional highlight of Chinese celebrations, but many cities across the country forbid their use over fire safety and noise concerns.

Zhao said the government should consider creating designated venues for setting off festive explosives, while stepping up safety measures.

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