The boy's death Monday is the latest incident to aggravate long-running public resentment over the family planning rules that limit many families to one child and some rural ones to two. After the incident in a village outside the eastern city of Rui'an, thousands of residents protested outside local government offices, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Police detained the two people on unspecified charges late Tuesday, said a statement on the Rui'an government's official website. Xinhua identified them as a local Communist Party chief named Bai and a driver.
How the toddler came to be run over is not completely clear from the government and state media accounts. Rui'an's party Propaganda Department declined further comment.
A team of 11 officials went to the village to persuade Chen Liandi and his wife Li Yuhong to pay a fine for violating the family planning limits. Xinhua said the requested fine totaled more than 30,000 yuan ($4,700) and was for giving birth to the boy, the couple's third child.
An argument ensued and Chen tried to prevent the officials from taking Li to a government office, though she soon relented and agreed to get into a car and go, the accounts said. In the confrontation, the boy dropped from Chen's arms and was run over by a vehicle, the government statement and state media said. Xinhua said Chen tried to pull the boy away but was too late.
If they didn't pay the fine, "they would have detained us," Xinhua quoted Chen as saying. It reported that Chen said he had been detained after the birth of the couple's second child, a daughter who is now 11.
Reports of the incident have further inflamed popular dislike of the family planning limits and the use of beatings, forced abortions, sterilizations and other aggressive enforcement measures. The family planning bureaucracy has swollen over the policy's more than three decades, and though local officials are under pressure to keep births within quotas assigned by Beijing, they have also at times been accused of excessive fines to fill government coffers.
Photos posted online of a woman forced to undergo a forced abortion when seven months' pregnant sparked national outrage last summer. Feng Jianmei was beaten and then forced to abort the pregnancy because the family could not pay the fine of 40,000 yuan ($6,300) for having a second child. She was later paid 70,600 yuan ($11,200) as compensation by authorities.