China on Saturday formally approved the easing of its longstanding one-child policy, allowing couples to have a second child if one parent is an only child, official news agency Xinhua reported.
Previously, a couple could generally only have a second child if both parents were only children, or if the first born to a rural couple was a girl.
It is the first major reform to the policy since it was implemented three decades ago with the aim of keeping China’s population growth in check.
The plan was envisioned by the ruling Communist Party about five years ago, with officials worried that the strict controls were undermining economic growth and contributing to a rapidly ageing population China had no hope of supporting financially.
On Saturday China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament approved a resolution to formalise the law change, with responsibility for its implementation to be delegated to local legislatures, Xinhua said.
Labour camps abolished
A second major reform was also formalised Saturday, with parliament aproving the abolition of a controversial labour camp system.
The “re-education through labour” system, in place since 1957, allows police to sentence petty criminals to up to four years’ confinement in labour camps without going through the courts.
Critics say the system undermines the rule of law and is often used against political activists and followers of Falun Gong, a banned spiritual group, while state media has said that the development of China's legal system has rendered the camps "superfluous", with their "historical mission" having come to an end.
According to UN figures published in 2009, an estimated 190,000 people were being held in the camps.
All existing inmates will now be freed, Xinhua reported.
The changes to both the one-child and labour camp polices were included among a sweeping raft of reforms announced last month after a Communist Party meeting that mapped out policy for the next decade.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2013-12-28