The parents who fear they will suffer in old age because of China's one child policy

China’s one child policy was one of its most controversial, internationally condemned laws.

It gave the state control over how many children a couple could have. This time last year, the Chinese Government decided to end the policy and allow families to have a second child.

For the past month we’ve been exploring the impact the policy had over its three decades and how people have reacted to the change.

The one child policy was introduced in 1980 in an effort to stifle population growth and enhance economic development.

The government had an ambitious plan to transform China from one of the poorest countries in the world into a global superpower. They achieved their economic aim but along the way the people paid a heavy price.

We met a group of eight parents whose only child died and they are now fearing for their own health in old age.

In Chinese society children take care of their elderly parents. There are care homes but they are very expensive and health care is costly too.

Before our cameras started running Yang Zhenling started crying. She was forced to abort her baby at nine months when the authorities deemed it to be an illegal second child.

They estimate there are over a million parents like them in China who have lost their only child. Credit: On Assignment

She said: “I actually followed the governments demand and got married late, for my husband it was his second marriage, he was divorced and had a son with his ex-wife.

"But when I went to give birth to our child the hospital said it wasn’t the first child in my family, so I lost my child.”

By the time she recovered from the trauma it was too late to try for another baby.

All of those we spoke to would have liked to have had a second child but many of them worked for state companies and had they tried they would have lost their job.

They have come together to petition the government for more support. They estimate there are over a million parents like them in China who have lost their only child.

Zhao Ru Xian’s daughter committed suicide three years ago aged 24.

She said: “The ending of the one child policy just brought all of our pain back. We obeyed the government policy our whole lives, both my husband and I are only children, and according to Chinese tradition it’s really bad if you do not have a child to continue the family line.

"The first criteria is to have a boy to continue the family line but I had a daughter, and even though she wouldn’t continue the family line I didn’t try to have a boy.

She added: "In order to support the government policy I sacrificed the only chance to continue my family line. Now that the policy had ended, and we have lost our only child, we are too old to have another, so it’s useless to us.

"The only demand we ask the government to do for us is to take care for us, those who made a sacrifice for the policy.”

In Chinese society children take care of their elderly parents. Credit: On Assignment

Mr Wen Ge’s son was killed in a road accident two years ago when he was 30 years old.

“Although they ended the one child policy, it’s too late for us, it should have changed 20 years ago. It was a control on our birth rights, our human right, our God given right, they have caused so much harm to our generation," he said.

The Chinese government has so far failed to respond to their petition and has never responded to criticism of its birth control policy.