By Farah Master
HONG KONG (Reuters) – An online post about a newlywed in China, who was rung up by her local government asking if she was pregnant, garnered tens of thousands of comments on Thursday before being removed, with many netizens saying they had experienced similar calls.
The debate comes on the heels of President Xi Jinping declaring at the Communist Party’s 20th Congress last week that China would establish a policy to boost birth rates and improve the country’s population development strategy.
In the post on Weibo, a Twitter-like service, a user named ‘lost shuyushou’ described a colleague’s experience in which the colleague answered a call from the Nanjing city government’s women’s health service.
The post quoted the colleague as saying she was told by an official that the local government “wants newlyweds to be pregnant within a year and their target is to make a phone call every quarter.”
The Nanjing municipal government and the National Health Commission did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.
The post was taken down a few hours after it was posted along with all the comments.
Having imposed a one-child policy from 1980 to 2015, China has acknowledged its population is on the brink of shrinking – a potential crisis that will test its ability to pay and care for its elderly.
New births are set to drop below 10 million from last year’s 10.6 million, a decline that will follow an 11.5% slide in 2020.
More recently, China’s uncompromising “zero-COVID” policy of promptly stamping out any outbreaks with strict controls on people’s lives may have caused profound, lasting damage to their desire to have children, demographers say.
Some experts and activists are also concerned by the government’s ramping up of rhetoric about the value of women’s traditional roles and setbacks to women’s rights, such as new policies which discourage abortions that are not medically necessary.
One person who posted in the comment section of the original post on Thursday said she got married in August last year and had since been twice rung up by her local government, which she did not name.
The first time she was asked if she was taking folic acid and if she was preparing to conceive. The second time, she was asked if she was already pregnant.
“You are married, why are you still not preparing for pregnancy? Take the time to have a baby,” she said she was told.
(Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)