Beijing — China has decided to ease its one-child policy and to end the much-criticized labor camp system, said the ruling Communist Party.
The changes were made following a four-day meeting of party leaders of last week in Beijing.
It will now allow two children to families where one parent is an only child, according to reports.
Chinese law has for decades limited most couples to one child. Exceptions were allowed if both parents were only children, for farm families whose first child was a girl, and for ethnic minority families.
The government says the one-child policy, introduced in 1980, prevented hundreds of millions of births and lifted countless families out of poverty.
But it also led to illegal forced abortions and sterilisations. Couples who did not obey the law could face fines, seizure of property and loss of jobs.
It also led to a gender imbalance due to sex specific abortions, famale infanticide and abandonment of baby girls because many parents cling to the traditional preference for a son.
The “re-education through labor” system was originally set up to punish early critics of the Communist Party, but has more recently been used to deal with people who challenge the party’s authority on various issues.
Pu Zhiqiang, a Beijing lawyer who has represented former labor camp detainees seeking compensation, welcomed the move to abolish the system.
“There have been many methods used recently by this government that are against the rule of law, and do not respect human rights, or freedom of speech, but by abolishing the labor camps … it makes it much harder for the police to put these people they clamp down on into labor camps,” he said.