• Brosis, a group led by teenager Xiao Xiyu, quizzed more than 1.500 parents with two children about the happiness of their older children.

Brosis, a group led by teenager Xiao Xiyu, quizzed more than 1.500 parents with two children about the happiness of their older children. (Photo : www.billmuehlenberg.com)

Around 70 parents who gave birth to their second child before the two-child policy took effect on Jan. 1 protested outside the headquarters of China's National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) in Beijing on Thursday, calling for their fines to be cancelled, as reported by the Global Times.

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"It is ridiculous that you have to pay hundreds of thousands of yuan in fines if your baby is born one minute to 12 a.m., and you don't if your baby is born after 12 a.m.," said one protester.

China's old family planning policy, introduced in the 1970s, required most urban couples to have a maximum of one child. In late October, the government decided to allow all couples to have a second child in order to balance population development and tackle the challenges of an aging population.

However, the national family planning authorities announced on Monday that couples who gave birth to a second child before the policy was relaxed would still have to pay fines known as social maintenance fees.

The size of the fees depends on the city and the years but they are typically several times the annual per capita disposable income of local urban citizens.

In several provinces and cities, unpaid social maintenance fees result in the children not being given a hukou or household registration. This limits their access to education, healthcare and housing benefits.

In China, there are a total of 13 million people who do not have a hukou, several of whom are second children.

While standing outside the gate of the NHFPC, protesters chanted, "Second children should not be treated differently."

One protester held her baby in her arms with a piece of poster stuck to the baby's back. The poster said, "Having a second child is legal, say no to fines."

The mother surnamed Zhang told reporters that she could not accept fines amounting to 350,000 yuan ($53,130) just because her girl was born less than a year before the new policy was announced.

"Why is the government still fining us after it made having a second child legal for all couples?" said Zhang. "I could not wait for the change of the policy, as I had already approached my 40s when I was pregnant. I was afraid that I would soon be unable to conceive physically."

According to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning, couples who had their second child before Jan. 1 still need to pay social maintenance fees due to the legal principle of non-retroactivity.

However, there is also the concept of favorable retroactivity, according to Huang Wenzheng, one of the founders of Population and Future Online. This states that, under Chinese legislation, retroactivity can be practiced if the actions are legal under the law and beneficial to all concerned parties.

"These parents who had a second child outside the previous family planning policy didn't break the law under the relaxed policy, and canceling fines will be welcomed by those parents and can also smooth over social conflicts," said Huang.