BEIJING, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese authorities have vowed to take tough measures to control fetus gender testing and sex-selective abortions to hold back the rising sex ratio imbalance.
"People who conduct illegal gender testing of fetuses and sex-selective abortions should face serious punishment," according to a document jointly issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council.
The authorities also pledged to improve protection of baby girls, saying that people who kill, abandon or injure infant girls or ill-treat their mothers, should be severely punished.
Medical institutions that use ultra-sound technology and abortion medicines will be more closely supervised, according to the document.
China's gender ratio for new born babies in 2005 was 118 boys for every 100 girls, compared with 110:100 in 2000. In some regions, the figure has reached 130 boys born for every 100 girls.
The decision said the gender-ratio imbalance which has been developing for some time amounts to "a hidden danger" for society that will "affect social stability".
In an attempt to halt the growing imbalance, China launched a "care for girls" campaign nationwide in 2000 to promote equality between men and women.
The government has also offered cash incentives to girl-only families in the countryside.
The authorities said such programs will continue to fight discrimination against girls and to adopt more policies to ensure the healthy growth of girls.
The authorities also pledged to "firmly" continue the 33-year-long family planning policy, as the country is still facing huge challenges from growing population.
Formulated in the early 1970s, China's family planning policy encourages late marriages and late childbearing, and limits most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two.
The government has employed 520,000 people, including 160,000 technicians, to implement family planning policies and provide services.
The family planning policy is credited with preventing 400 million new births. However, authorities warn the country is still facing an "unprecedented" situation.
The key and difficult area is the country's rural region, where the social security network is underdeveloped and people's traditional preference for male heirs has not changed.
The authorities promised to continue to improve family planning services in rural areas and will offer more assistance to girl-only families.
It also said those who violated the family planning policy, especially Party members and government officials, should be fined and punished according to law.
Violators of the policy will be subject to Party or administrative discipline and held legally responsible, the document said.
"Maintaining a low birth rate is the priority of family planning during the next phase," the document said adding that the next four years is a "crucial" period.
China's government has pledged to keep the mainland population under 1.36 billion by 2010 and under 1.45 billion by 2020.
"Over the coming decades, China's overall population will increase by eight to 10 million a year," bring unprecedented challenges to the country's social and economic development, the document said.
"China's overall population, along with its working population and its aging population, will peak in the first half of the 21 century," noted the document.
China currently has 1.3 billion people.
China will further increase its public investment in population and family planning, according to the document.
By 2010, China's is expected to spend 30 yuan (3.84 U.S. dollars) per person up from 10 yuan (1.28 U.S. dollars) person in 2005, said the document.
China is also encouraging enterprises, non-governmental organizations and individuals to provide financial assistance for the country's family planning programs, said the document.
China will also study the causes of birth defects and try to alter the key factors that cause them. The document blamed unhealthy lifestyles, environmental factors and hereditary for causing genetic defects in newborns.
The document also urged Chinese couples to complete physical examination before they marry and women to give birth in hospital and to breast feed.
Relevant departments and hospitals are urged to provide consulting and health care services for pregnant women.
More comprehensive training will be given to family planning staff to improve their knowledge not only in policies and techniques, but also in public health, psychology, consulting and social services.
With China's migrant worker population reaching close to 150 million, ensuring they are covered by family planning is extremely important to maintaining a stable, low birth rate, said the document. Eighty percent of migrant workers are former farmers and they are permitted to have two children if their first is a girl.
The document commits China to improving family-planning services for migrant workers and strengthening the registration system for migrant workers to better track their family planning choices. The document also said family planning associations will be set up in communities and enterprises with large numbers of migrant workers.