Thousands of Chinese parents lost their only children in last May's Sichuan earthquake, but now a few hundred families are expecting another baby, after receiving a special exemption to the country's strict population controls.
A total of 757 women who lost children in the May 12 earthquake are now pregnant, officials from the National Population and Family Planning Commission announced Friday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
The exemptions to China's so-called "one-child policy" were aimed at offering some solace to grieving couples.
According to the Sichuan provincial population commission, more than 10,000 families lost children in the 7.9-magnitude quake, Xinhua reported.
Population officials said 5,724 mothers who lost children were given free reproductive services, including counseling, guidance, health exams, sterilization reversals and fertility treatments, Xinhua said.
Under the country's strict population policy, which has been in effect for more than three decades, most urban couples can have only one child. Rural couples are allowed to have two children if the first is a girl, in a nod to traditional preferences.
The policy does not specifically address whether, in general, a couple whose child dies can have another, but it allows provincial governments to pass exemptions to the one-child policy.
A report on the central government's Web site, citing provincial data, said that "more than 10,000 families with one or two children born under the family planning law lost children." Of those, more than 8,000 families were one-child families, the report said.
After the quake, the Sichuan provincial legislature passed a regulation stating that parents who lost an only child or whose children were disabled in the quake could have another. In addition, people who lost spouses in the quake and remarried can have another child, if the new couple has no more than two children from previous marriages.
The quake left nearly 70,000 dead and another 18,000 missing and presumed dead. Many of those who died were children who were crushed when their badly built classrooms collapsed.
The government has never said how many schoolchildren died in the quake but admits some 7,000 classrooms in the province were destroyed. The students' deaths have become a politically sensitive issue as their parents have staged protests, demanding investigations and accountability.
Road to rebuilding
As the province continues to grapple with the task of rebuilding schools, houses and infrastructure devastated in the quake, its economy is expected to grow by 9 percent, according to Xinhua. By comparison, experts have said China's overall growth may fall below 8 percent as the global economic crisis impacts the country's export industries.
Liu Jie, director of the provincial development and reform commission, said the central government would give Sichuan preference in policies and funds to help boost construction for communications and energy, according to Xinhua.
The province will rebuild by September all of the more than 1 million houses that were damaged in the quake, by offering subsidies, loans and technical guidance to farmers and ensuring supplies of construction material, the China Daily newspaper said.
The province will have invested 1.7 trillion yuan ($249 billion) by the end of 2010 on rebuilding and reconstruction, it said.