Ren Zeping, a former member of China’s economic think tank and once chief economist of deeply indebted property giant Evergrande, suggested that the Chinese government print 2 trillion yuan (roughly $314 billion) every year as a way to boost the declining birth rate in the country.
A line on his account page says: “Due to violations of relevant laws and regulations, the user is currently banned from posting.” But there is no explanation as to what laws and regulations he is deemed to have violated.
On Jan. 10, Ren published a report on his Weibo account, stating that, based on a survey he’d done, a major solution to China’s declining birth rate was to reduce the cost of childbearing and raising children.
Ren said in his report that his suggestion was “a most pragmatic and effective way” to address this issue.
According to Ren, the Chinese government should establish a birth rate boosting fund with the Central Bank printing $314 billion every year for the fund in the coming decade. By doing so, China could expect an increase of 50 million children in the next ten years, solving the problems of an aging population and a low birth rate.
On the next day, Ren posted two comments on his birth boosting suggestions. However, all the relevant posts were removed at 11 p.m., Jan. 12.
Ren’s Weibo account had 3.57 million followers before it was banned.
China Censors Online Information
The Chinese regime has tightened its grip on the domestic internet system.
On Dec. 14, 2021, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Cyberspace Administration Office summoned senior management and chief editor of Weibo for a talk “in response to the recently repeated occurrence of publishing and transmission of information prohibited by laws and regulations on Weibo and by its users,” and it fined Weibo’s operator $472,000 for those violations.
From January to November 2021, the CCP’s internet watchdog fined Weibo’s operator 44 times for a total amount of $2.25 million, according to a December report of the CCP’s mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency.
Ren’s ban will last two weeks, according to Reuters, citing the state-run Securities Times newspaper.
The 21st Century Business Herald, a Chinese state-run financial outlet, cited an anonymous source in its report on Jan. 12, claiming that Ren’s “views may be more likely to provoke public sentiment and receive some echoes,” the consequences of which are believed to be “something the authorities don’t want to see.”
Netizens believe that Ren’s ban has to do with his birth rate boosting suggestions, as China’s population control policies have always been a sensitive topic in China; and its aging population due to mandatory “family planning policies” will be a “final blow” to the Chinese economy.
In the implementation of these policies, local authorities are widely involved in using forced abortions, involuntary sterilizations, and crippling financial penalties to control the number of births.
Netizens Support Free Speech
Hours after Ren’s account was banned on Jan. 12, the #RenZepingBanned topic on Weibo received over 2.5 million reads. Many comments followed the hashtag.
A netizen from Nanjing, capital city of China’s east coast Jiangsu Province, commented: “Why treat a scholar in such a way? Whose interests have been harmed [by Ren’s suggestions]? … The scholar only explains the importance of the issue.”
An unnamed netizen from China’s southwestern Yunnan Province said: “This much of speech freedom should be available.”
A netizen named “Fourth-generation Fighter” from China’s eastern Anhui Province said: “It is unacceptable not to allow people to speak. You can refuse to accept his words if they are wrong.”
A netizen named “1tSK1” from Sichuan, China’s southwestern province, said: “Even when I absolutely disagree with his words, I will die to defend his freedom of speech.”
The Chinese edition of The Epoch Times reached out to Ren via his Weibo account on Jan. 14 and received the message: “The other party’s account is abnormal, and [your message] cannot be sent.”
Sophia Lam contributed to the article.