Skip to main content

China to ease one-child policy, abolish labor camps, report says

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
updated 3:23 AM EST, Sat November 16, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China announces changes to one-child policy and labor camps
  • Labor camps will be abolished, state-run news agency reports
  • China has hinted at these changes in recent months

(CNN) -- After months of hints, China announced Friday it will relax its decades-long one-child policy and abolish labor camps in an effort to improve human rights, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Officials had said earlier both controversial policies were under review, but that did not diminish the force of Friday's announcement.

The biggest change could be the abolishment of the so-called "re-education through labor" system under which tens of thousands are imprisoned in China without trial.

Set up in 1957, the system allows the police to detain petty offenders -- such as thieves, prostitutes and drug addicts -- in labor camps for up to four years without a trial. China's judicial process itself is already controlled by the ruling Communists in a one-party regime. In a 2009 report to a United Nations human rights forum, the Chinese government acknowledged 320 such facilities nationwide holding 190,000 people. Other estimates have put the number of inmates much higher.

What does China's announcement mean?
China eases one-child policy, why now?
China to relax one child policy
Broken by China's labor camps
Unhappiness over China one-child policy

Critics have long accused of the authorities of misusing the camps to silence so-called trouble makers, including political dissidents, rights activists and Falun Gong members.

Chinese labor camp inmate tells of true horror of Halloween 'SOS'

As part of the reforms, China said it will reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty.

Even those who know little about China have likely heard about its one-child policy. China's family planning laws require most families living in urban areas to have one child.

The policy will be slightly relaxed so that couples will be allowed to have two children if one of the parents was an only child, Xinhua reported. Currently, both parents must be sole children to be eligible for a second child.

Glut of women at Shanghai's marriage market

The one-child policy, though applauded by many for slowing down China's population growth, has been widely criticized for resulting in forced abortions and hefty fines that are sometimes used to enforce it.

Some critics say the law hurts China's elderly, who typically rely on their children for support in old age, and even constrains economic growth as the working age population begins to decline.

"Since the policy now allows it, I will definitely have a second child," one 25-year-old woman in Beijing told CNN. "It's too lonely for a single child."

Another man, walking through the Beijing metro with his girlfriend, agreed.

"When I get married, I would prefer having two children as I'm the only child in my family. My childhood was a bit boring," he said.

A third commuter also praised the changes: "It's a great new policy. Raising three kids is a bit stressful, but two are just perfect."

The girl with no identity: Being a second child in China

CNN's David McKenzie, Peter Shadbolt, Katie Hunt and Feng Ke contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Is Xi Jinping a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
updated 2:31 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
updated 12:14 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
updated 2:56 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
updated 4:36 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
updated 11:34 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
updated 7:47 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
updated 4:12 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
updated 2:54 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT