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China to ease one-child policy as part of sweeping reforms

China to ease one-child policy as part of sweeping reforms


Beijing to abolish controversial labor camp system and will scale back death penalty, state news agency reports

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chinese children (flickr)
chinese children (flickr)

The Chinese government today announced that it will ease its longstanding one-child per household population policy, as part of a sweeping set of domestic reforms. According to the Xinhua News Agency, the new policy will allow couples to have two children if either of the two parents was an only child. Under the previous policy, couples in some cities could only have two children if both of the parents were only children.

The country's one-chid policy was originally implemented in 1979 as part of an effort to curb population growth in urban areas. The Chinese government has long stood by the law despite appeals from human rights groups, though reports began circulating this summer that the regime was considering a change. The practice, together with lingering cultural norms, has widely been blamed for China's dramatically skewed gender gap; according to recent data, there are 118 boys born in China for every 100 girls, far above global averages. The reforms announced today come as part of a roadmap that will guide domestic reforms over the coming decades.

An end to labor camps

The country also announced Friday that it will abolish a controversial "reeducation through labor" program, which police have long used to detain suspected criminals without trial. The system has come under intense criticism from human rights groups and legal scholars, with many deploring the lack of judicial oversight and squalid conditions that detainees are subjected to. According to Xinhua, the government made the decision "as part of efforts to improve human rights and judicial practices." Beijing announced plans to scale back the death penalty, as well, with Xinhua reporting that the number of crimes subject to the penalty will be reduced "step by step."

Friday's announcement comes after a week-long meeting of a panel convened by the governing Communist Party. In addition to social and legal reforms, the party outlined economic policy changes, including plans to set up an intellectual property court and a "more impartial, sustainable" social security system.

The government did not say when these reforms will go into effect.