Video news+quiz: China To ‘Loosen’ Its One-Child Policy

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Sky news 17 November 2013

Chinese state media has reported that the country’s one child policy is to be “loosened”, in what will be a major policy shift.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the Communist party released a key document saying it will now allow couples to have two children if one of the parents is an only child.

The law has caused many social problems, including uncertainty for the elderly who are left with no real safety net because four grandparents and two parents only have one caretaker for old age.

The policy was brought in during the late 1970s to control China’s huge population, the world’s largest, but has at times been brutally enforced.

In October a couple from Shandong province told Sky’s Asia Correspondent Mark Stone how authorities had forced the woman into an abortion three months before their child was due to be born.

The law currently restricts most couples to one child, with one of the exceptions allowing a second if both parents are only children.

“The birth policy will be adjusted and improved step-by-step to promote ‘long-term balanced development of the population in China’,” Xinhua reported.

Despite calls for relaxation of the family-planning law and rumours that it might be reformed, Chinese officials have repeatedly argued that the policy is still needed, claiming over-population threatens the country’s development.

At the same time census officials warned earlier this year that China’s working-age population had begun to shrink after three decades of astounding economic growth.

Xinhua also said China will abolish its much-criticised labour camp system.

The “re-education through labour” system allowed police panels to sentence offenders to years in camps without a trial.

The decisions are “part of efforts to improve human rights and judicial practices” Xinhua said, and came in a detailed reform statement issued after a key meeting of the ruling Communist party earlier this week.

The gathering, known as the Third Plenum, had also decided to reduce “step by step” the number of crimes subject to the death penalty.

The deeply unpopular labour camp system, known as “laojiao”, is largely used for petty offenders but is also blamed for widespread rights abuses by corrupt officials seeking to punish whistleblowers and those who try to complain about them to higher authorities.

Under the scheme, people can be sent for up to four years’ re-education by a police panel, without a court appearance.

Pressure for change in the system has been building for years.

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