Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

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

By Madison Park, CNN
December 28, 2013 -- Updated 0907 GMT (1707 HKT)
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
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0259 GMT (1059 HKT)
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
Over 200 Chinese villagers in Sichuan province have signed a petition to banish a HIV-positive eight-year-old boy, state media reported.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane, forcing the Nanjing-bound plane to turn back to Bangkok.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 0503 GMT (1303 HKT)
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Like Beijing today, Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons.
December 6, 2014 -- Updated 0542 GMT (1342 HKT)
At the height of his power, Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0826 GMT (1626 HKT)
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0648 GMT (1448 HKT)
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 0855 GMT (1655 HKT)
Despite an anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past 12 months.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
A 24-hour Taipei bookstore is a hangout for hipsters as well as bookworms.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
North Korean refugees face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT