China to relax one child policy and abolish labour camp system
BEIJING - China will ease its one-child policy and abolish a controversial labour camp system, in a series of major reforms announced on Friday by the ruling Communist Party of China.
Chinese state media revealed the reforms on Friday night in a 22,000-word report detailing the results of the third plenum, a closed-door annual meeting of about 400 top party leaders, that has historically been used as a launching pad for substantial reforms.
Plenums in 1978 and 1993 laid the foundations for China's current economic model, a combination of market capitalism and tight political control.
In the case of couples where one partner is an only child, they will be allowed to have two children, China's state news wire Xinhua reported, citing the results of the plenum which ended in Beijing on Tuesday.
While most people in China are still only allowed to have one child, some groups, including ethnic minorities, disabled people, and in the case of couples where both partners are only children, they are allowed to have two, reports Guardian.
The CPC said the change in family planning policy was intended to promote "long-term balanced development of the population in China," according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
According to the document, the Communist Party also plans to scrap its extrajudicial "re-education through labour" detention system, improve social welfare programmes, and ease migration restrictions for the tens of millions of rural residents attempting to put down roots in cities.
Details of the reforms and timelines for their implementation are still unclear.
The labor-camp system was designed to punish early critics of the Communist Party, but it is now used by local officials to deal with people who challenge the state on rights issues and corruption, the Associated Press said.
The state will also reduce the number of crimes punishable by death, "work to ban", getting criminal confessions through torture, and improve the judiciary system.
The main economic reform in the bundle was a proposed change to the country's tightly-controlled banking sector, allowing the establishment of small and medium-sized private banks.
China's ruling party agreed to the roadmap at the Third Plenum of its 18th Central Committee earlier this week.
This secretive four-day meeting was the first opportunity the year-old administration led by Xi Jinping has had to set its policy agenda.
Critics have called the controversial one-child policy, introduced in 1979 to keep population growth in check, outdated and cruel. In the cities, it has created a demographic crunch, catching second-generation only-children in a financial bind as they struggle to support two parents and four grandparents.
In the countryside, it has fueled a rise in sex-selective abortions, as many rural families prefer boys to girls, and a host of human rights violations abductions, forced abortions, extra-legal detentions as family planning authorities use extreme measures to keep birth rates low.
However, the policy's relaxation is unlikely to lead to a population boom. Many urbanites, already burdened by rocketing education and housing costs, consider multiple children an exclusive province of the rich.
Zhang Xin, a 39-year-old media worker in Beijing, is newly eligible to have two children he is an only child, his wife has siblings, and they already have a seven-year-old son.
Yet "the new policy doesn't make a big difference for me," he said. "I don't think we could afford another child, in terms of time and financial pressure", reports the Guardian.
The BBC's Celia Hatton, in Beijing, says most of the changes have already been tested in parts of the country.
Officials announce their plans well in advance to gain the consensus they need, she adds.
Traditionally reforms are expected from the Third Plenum, because new leaders are seen as having had time to consolidate power. President Xi Jinping took office last year.