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China formally relaxes one-child policy, abolishes re-education camps

China’s legislature has formally approved a relaxation of the country’s one-child policy and abolished re-education camps. Both changes had been agreed at a previous meeting of top Communist Party officials.

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China reforms one-child policy

The standing committee of the National People's Congress passed a resolution on Saturday that will allow couples to have two children if either of the parents is an only child, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Until now, only in cases in which both partners were only children, were they allowed to have two children.

The change is expected to allow around 10 million couples to have a second child if they so choose.

The one-child policy was introduced by Beijing more than three decades ago in an effort to prevent overpopulation in what was already by far the world's most populous nation. Since the 1990s, the birth-rate in China has dropped to an average of around 1.5 per couple. At the same time, the country is seeing a rapidly aging population as well as a shrinking labor force.

Re-education camps abolished

The committee also used the meeting to approve the abolishment of re-education labor camps, which were introduced in the late 1950s as a way of dealing with petty offenders. The re-education camp system, in which police panels had the power to hand down sentences to alleged offenders of up to four years without trial had long been criticized by human rights groups.

The reforms passed on Saturday came at the end of a six-day meeting of the National People's Congress' standing committee.

They also came as little surprise, as leading members of the ruling

Communist Party had pledged to introduce the changes following a meeting

last month. The legislative body's approval was a formality required before the reforms could be implemented.

pfd/av (dpa, AFP)

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