China has been shaken after birth control officials killed a newborn baby in front of its parents. The baby was born to a Mrs Liu, at a hospital in Hubei, a rural province 800 miles south of Beijing. Because she had already given birth to three children, earlier in the pregnancy Mrs Liu had been forcibly injected with a saline solution to induce an abortion. But the infant survived and was born healthy. Following the birth, the officials ordered the father to kill the baby. He refused, but he was so terrified he took the baby outside and hid it behind an office block. A doctor passing heard the child's cries and returned it to its mother. After removing the umbilical cord and giving the baby routine vaccinations he discharged the pair. But when the mother got home she was met by five officials waiting in the living room. They grabbed the baby from her, took it outside and drowned it in a paddy field in front of the parents. The doctor who tended the baby in hospital said: "How could they be so cruel? The child could have been looked after in a children's welfare home." The case has aroused a national media outcry, which has caused the provincial government to pledge that those responsible will be punished. However, human rights groups say this is by no means an isolated case. Because couples are only allowed one child, and Chinese society favours boys, human rights groups say millions of girl babies have been left to die after they were born. In a 1997 report, the World Health Organisation said an estimated 50 million baby girls had gone 'missing'. Unknown millions of babies with disabilities have also been left to die - as reported in the BBC documentary The Dying Rooms. And the practice is widespread today. The result is that men now outnumber women in China by at least three to one - with devastating social consequences. Gender-selective abortion has also contributed to this huge imbalance. A spokeswoman from Human Rights Watch said: "Because of this policy there are now 111 million men who will not be able to find a wife." The one child policy was introduced in the 1970s to ensure that China could feed all its people - now exceeding 1,1billion - from a mere seven per cent of the world's arable land. The policy is more strictly enforced in cities than in rural areas and is estimated to have kept the population down by about 200 million. Last month, Shang Weiquing, China's minister for family planning, said he would not tolerate officials abusing women to achieve birth control targets. He said: "We have a strict policy. We deal with every violation by officials seriously." Mr Weiquing was responding to reports that family planning officials in some regions were holding women in detention centres for getting pregnant more than once.
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