Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

China eases one-child policy, ends re-education through labor camps

By Madison Park, CNN
updated 4:07 AM EST, Sat December 28, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China's top legislature approves changes to one-child policy
  • Couples will be allowed to have two children if one of the parents was an only child
  • The National People's Congress also abolishes re-education through labor camps

Hong Kong (CNN) -- China's top legislature approved resolutions to officially amend its controversial one-child policy and end re-education through labor camps.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress passed the resolutions Saturday, according to the Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency. The resolution is equal to a legal document in China.

The changes to the one-child policy, first announced last month, will mean couples will be allowed to have two children if one of the parents was an only child, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. Currently, both parents must be sole children to be eligible for a second child.

The one-child policy, which started in the 1970s, is believed to have prevented some 400 million births, according to Xinhua.

Impact of China easing 'one child' policy
China eases one-child policy, why now?

Although the policy has been applauded by many for slowing down China's rapid population growth, it has also been widely criticized for resulting in forced abortions and hefty fines for families.

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 1990s, the birth rate has declined, with Chinese women giving birth to an average of 1.4 to 1.6 children.

Officials say the easing of the one-child policy does not mean China is ending its family planning.

"China still has a large population. This has not changed. Many of our economic and social problems are rooted in this reality," said Jiang Fan, an National People's Congress deputy and member of the NPC Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, in Chinese media. "We cannot risk the population growing out of control."

The easing of the one-child policy is expected to go into effect in some regions in the first quarter of 2014, according to Xinhua.

Re-education camps abolished

China had hinted as early as January that it would terminate the controversial re-education through labor camps.

The notorious camps date back to the 1950s when the new Communist regime sought to silence its enemies to consolidate its power.

Rights group skeptical of Chinese reforms
China under fire over labor camps

Critics say the camps, which fall outside of the formal prison system, are often misused to persecute government dissidents, including intellectuals, human rights activists and followers of banned spiritual groups like the Falun Gong.

China's forced labor camps: One woman's fight for justice

The abolition of labor camps called "laojiao" goes into effect Saturday. Xinhua reported that the people still serving in re-education through labor camps will be set free.

Human rights organizations say the changes to the labor camps may just be cosmetic. Amnesty International told CNN earlier this month that the labor camps are being replaced by other types of facilities such as "legal education camps" or renamed as drug rehabilitation camps.

Amnesty: Rights abuses continue despite camp closures

CNN's Paul Armstrong 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