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
updated 1:18 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
A top retired general has confessed to taking bribes, becoming the highest-profile figure in China's military to be caught up in President Xi Jinping's war on corruption.
updated 1:07 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
A group in China escapes from a stuck elevator thanks to one man and his trusty hammer. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports.
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Facebook's founder says he taught himself Mandarin and tested his skills with students in China.
updated 9:33 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
China launched an experimental spacecraft that is scheduled to orbit the moon before returning to Earth.
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Full marks for ingenuity: This was a truly high-tech scam.
updated 1:26 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
The rationale behind Confucius Institutes -- an international chain of academic centers run by an arm of the Chinese government -- is understandable.
updated 11:11 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G wants everyone to know that he's not a foreign agitator trying to defy the Chinese Communist Party.
updated 7:13 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
A smuggler in Dandong, a Chinese border town near North Korea, tells CNN about the underground trade with North Korean soldiers
updated 1:11 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Yenn Wong got quite a surprise one morning earlier this month when she found out an exact copy of her Hong Kong restaurant had opened in China.
updated 11:15 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
When I first came across a "virtual lover" service on e-commerce site Taobao, China's version of Amazon, I thought it was hype.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Each year Yi Jiefeng does what she can to stop China turning into a desert.
updated 10:54 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
As its relationship with the West worsen, Russia is pivoting east in an attempt to secure business with China.
updated 10:29 PM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
Aspiring Chinese comics performing in Shanghai's underground comedy scene hope to bring stand-up to the masses.
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Liu Wen is one of the world's highest-paid models and the first Chinese face to crack the top five in Forbes' annual list of top earners.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Cunning wolf? Working class hero? Or bland Beijing loyalist? C.Y. Leung was a relative unknown when he came to power in 2012.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
 A man uses his smartphone on July 16, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Only 53.5% of Japanese owned smartphones in March, according to a white paper released by the Ministry of Communications on July 15, 2014. The survey of a thousand participants each from Japan, the U.S., Britain, France, South Korea and Singapore, demonstrated that Japan had the fewest rate of the six; Singapore had the highest at 93.1%, followed by South Korea at 88.7%, UK at 80%, and France at 71.6%, and U.S. at 69.6% in the U.S. On the other hand, Japan had the highest percentage of regular mobile phone owners with 28.7%. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
App hopes to help those seeking a way out of China's overstrained public health system.
updated 8:20 PM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
Yards from pro-democracy protests, stands the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), China's armed forces.
ADVERTISEMENT