BEIJING, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- China's lawmakers on Tuesday highlighted the importance of continuing family planning when discussing a bill on easing the one-child policy.
Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) held panel discussions about a bill on easing China's decades-long one-child policy, which would allow couples to have two children if either parent is an only child.
The bill was submitted by the State Council, China's cabinet, to the NPC Standing Committee's bi-monthly session on Monday.
"Easing the one-child policy does not mean we will abandon family planning. Rather, it is also a measure for family planning," said Chi Wanchun, an NPC Standing Committee member, at the panel discussion.
It is right to adjust family planning policy in the face of new circumstances, but it is equally important to strictly implement family planning policies so as to ensure sustainable population growth, Chi said.
Whether the one-child policy is eased or not, there are people violating family planning laws and policies and they should be punished, he added.
"China still has a large population. This has not changed. Many of our economic and social problems are rooted in this reality," said Jiang Fan, an NPC deputy and member of the NPC Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. "We could not risk letting the population grow out of control."
While upholding family planning as an essential state strategy, lawmakers agreed with the State Council that the policy should be adjusted in the face of a steadily declining birth rate and changing demographics.
When briefing lawmakers about the bill on Monday, Li Bin, minister in charge of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, warned that if the current family planning policy persists, the birth rate will continue to fall and lead to a sharp drop in the total population after reaching a peak.
The bill held that an increase in births is expected if the policy changes, but will not be big.
Sun Bin, an NPC deputy and farmer from northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, agreed with the State Council's assessment.
"Even in my village, people have changed their ideas about parenting. Many prefer having fewer children and giving them better lives and educations. I don't think there will be a very fast increase," said Sun, who was invited to attend the panel discussion.
However, he said rural communities have felt the pressure of aging.
"Parents want their only child to go to cities, and so do the youth themselves. Now only the middle-aged and elderly stay for farming," he said. "They are not well educated or skillful with modern agriculture."
If a family has more than one child, one of them might stay at home, he said.
The National Health and Family Planning Commission announced on Monday that the new policy is expected to go into effect in some provincial regions in the first quarter of 2014.
Lawmakers called on governments to fully prepare for the policy change.
In the bill, the State Council suggested that provincial congresses and their standing committees amend local family planning regulations after evaluation of local demographics.
"We should tread carefully. Every province should not rush to adopt the new policy if their conditions are not ready, nor should they intentionally delay it," Jiang Fan said.