Last week I wrote about the warranty on children killed by the recent earthquake in China. I referred to an exemption to the country's one-child policy, allowing parents who lost their kids to replace them. At one point, I asked, "Why should the warranty apply only to this earthquake? What about the floods of 1991 and 1998? What about the drought of 1988? How many couples lost their only kids in those calamities? Where's their compensation?"
Many of you wrote in to correct me, noting that the replacement allowance is a general rule under the one-child policy. I wasn't satisfied with these assertions, so I went to the Chinese government's Web site for clarification. After some digging around, the only direct nationwide statement I could find was in the " Population and Family Planning Law of the People's Republic of China ," adopted in 2001. Here's the basic language (Article 18):
The State maintains its current policy for reproduction, encouraging late marriage and childbearing and advocating one child per couple. Where the requirements specified by laws and regulations are met, plans for a second child, if requested, may be made. Specific measures in this regard shall be formulated by the people's congress or its standing committee of a province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government.
And here's the sole reference to damaged children (Article 27):
Where the only child of a couple is disabled or killed in accidents, and the couple decides not to have or adopt another child, the local people's government shall provide the couple with necessary assistance.
So, the general policy is vague. Implicitly, at least, you can decide to have another child if yours is killed or even disabled, as long as the tragedy was an accident.
Slate 's Lucy Morrow Caldwell contacted several China experts who helped us with the original " Explainer " on this topic. We couldn't find records of the policy being waived in previous disasters, but Vanessa Fong of Harvard and Wang Feng of the University of California confirmed that the policy has traditionally permitted a second child if the first is killed or disabled. Cindy Sun of Fudan University directed us to a May 28 statement from the National Population and Family Planning Commission of China. The statement includes a clause that an acquaintance of mine translates as follows:
To the families whose children were injured or killed in the earthquake, the benefit of additional birth should be given, according to the number, sex, and injury of the children who survived the disaster.
In other words, precise numerical replacement, with different values for boys and girls, since many rural parents are allowed to have a second child if the first is a girl .
We also found a link to the earthquake policy issued by the Family Planning Commission in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, which bore the brunt of the disaster. A second acquaintance paraphrases its main points this way:
1) A "green light" for parents whose only child was injured, disabled, or killed.
2) The government will proactively work with these parents if they wish to have another child. This includes registering them and providing reproductive services.
Here's his translation of the policy's fine print on injury or disability:
Medical identification shall be conducted on injured/disabled children of single-child families. If the child is certified to have second-degree or above injury or disability, the parents shall be assisted to apply for bearing a second child.
A third acquaintance translates the fine print somewhat differently:
For those whose only child was disabled in the earthquake, local Birth-Control Agencies shall record the cases and compare them to the "Medical Disability Standards for Children from One-Child Family." For those qualified, the local agencies shall help them file the applications for the birth of a second child. The Birth-Control Council of Chengdu city will perform medical assessment and approval process promptly.
One final note: Article 11 of Sichuan's family-planning regulations stipulates that couples may have a second child if "the first child has non-genetic defects and is unable to grow up to be a normal laborer."
So, here's the full policy, as far as I can piece it together from the available documents: You can replace your child (in the numerical sense) in the event of death or disability, as long as the cause was an accident. Extent of replacement depends on the number and sex of the children you lost. Replacement for disability requires medical certification that the damage is second-degree, as measured by official standards. Replacement is also available for disabling defects, but not if they're genetic, presumably because in that case the replacement might be similarly defective.
Got that? To me, it sounds a lot like the piece of paper that came with my PC monitor. So, there's your warranty. Let's hope you never have to use it.