The United States is granting asylum to three Chinese couples and their families because of fear they would face persecution for violating China's stringent family-planning policy, the Justice Department said Saturday.

Attorney General Edwin Meese approved requests for asylum from the three families under new department guidelines that pertain to China's family planning program, a department spokeswoman said.The three Chinese citizens who along with their families are to be granted asylum were identified as Dr. Quan Bang Li, Dacheng Cong and Jiguang Zhou.

Li is believed to be a resident of Phoenix, where he been working as a mechanical engineer, according to The Washington Post. The whereabouts of the other families could not be determined Saturday.

Deborah Wade, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said she had no additional information about the families and presumed that some of them wish to avoid publicity.

The Chinese government in an attempt to curb population growth has adopted a policy aimed at encouraging families to limit their size to no more than one child.

People who have more than one child may lose their membership in the Communist Party, be fired from their job and find the purchase of items such as fuel and agricultural supplies difficult, according to a recent State Department report on human rights around the world.