Chinese Communist Party (CCP) internet censors have allegedly deleted dozens of social media accounts belonging to Chinese women’s rights groups ahead of the release of China’s latest ten-year census, expected to show a sharp decline in birth rates for the fourth consecutive year.
“In recent days, more than a dozen accounts used by women’s-rights groups were deleted from the Weibo social-media platform as well as cultural-discussion site Douban.com,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on April 19.
Weibo is a Chinese microblogging website often referred to as “Chinese Twitter.” It is one of China’s most popular social media platforms. Douban.com is another popular Chinese social networking service. Both Weibo and Douban.com., like much of the Chinese internet, are heavily censored by CCP authorities.
“The deletions came as China awaits the results of a once-a-decade census, which had been expected by early April but have yet to be released. Demographers expect the data to show a sharp drop in births in 2020, the fourth straight decline following a brief rise in 2016, the first year after the one-child policy was lifted,” WSJ reported.
“What are they afraid of?” one Chinese social media user allegedly wrote in the wake of the mass deletions, according to the newspaper. “Are they afraid of more women waking up? Are they panicking when seeing the fertility rates and marriage rates?”
Weibo officials issued a statement via their own verified Weibo account saying the microblogging site had recently removed some accounts because they were “related to illegal or hurtful information,” but did not provide further details.
“A spokeswoman for China’s National Statistics Bureau said in a Friday [April 16] briefing that the agency needed additional time on the census because there was more data to process than in previous ones,” WSJ reported.
“Lü Pin, a Chinese activist based in New York whose Weibo account was taken down, says that women taking responsibility for the well-being of family members is ‘like having free labor,'” according to the newspaper. Lü’s comment provides some insight into the type of content the CCP censors reportedly targeted during the feminist account purge.
China’s declining birth rate is a subject of consternation for the ruling Communist Party, which in recent years has promoted the nuclear family as an ideal for young Chinese people to strive for. The message to marry and have children early comes after the CCP encouraged young people to do the opposite for decades under the rule of the CCP’s founder, Mao Zedong. It remains illegal in most of China for couples to have more than two children today.
Mao actively discouraged young women from marrying or having children during the early part of his rule as CCP chairman from 1949-1976, pushing them to join the Chinese workforce instead. This anti-family propaganda, coupled with a later one-child policy meant to counter runaway population growth from 1979-2015, severely warped China’s population and demographics.
As families considered baby boys more popular, millions or parents aborted baby girls or left them to die outside after their birth, since they could only legally keep and raise one child. The result has been a severe lack of child-bearing women in China alive today.
“[D]ecades of the one-child policy mean there are now simply fewer people of marriage age,” WSJ noted Monday, adding that “fewer Chinese marry every year.”
“The number of people getting married for the first time dropped from 23.86 million in 2013 to 13.99 million in 2019,” China’s state-run Global Times reported in December 2020, citing data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics.
“The fall is largely due to the decline in newborn babies in the early 1990s, who now have come into marriage age,” demographer Zhou Haiwang, deputy director of the Institute of Population and Development under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the newspaper.
“Statistics show that China’s birth rate fell from 21.06 to 17.12 newborns per 1,000 people from 1990 to 1995,” the Global Times noted.
“Apart from the population issue, marriage itself is less attractive to young Chinese people today, as they are more independent, both financially and mentally, and more self-centered than previous generations,” the CCP mouthpiece added.