China Formalizes Labor Camp, One-Child Reforms

China's official news agency says the national legislature has voted to abolish the country's controversial re-education through labor camps and ease its decades-old one-child policy. 

The Xinhua news agency reported Saturday that the moves by the rubber-stamp standing committee of the National People's Congress formalized decisions made in November by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Xinhua said, starting Saturday, all those in the labor camps would begin to be freed. However, the article stressed that all penalties imposed before the abolition of the system would remain valid, a prevision aimed at preventing the detainees from filing lawsuits.

Under the notorious system, police could sentence alleged offenders to four years in camps without a trial. It is not clear what will replace the labor camps, which are estimated to hold as many as 190,000 people.

The standing committee also ruled that Chinese couples will now be able to have two children, if one of the parents is an only child.

Previously, a couple could generally have a second child only if both parents were single children. Rights groups have long criticized the one-child policy, which has been in some cases carried out with forced abortions and sterilization campaigns.

VOA News / Dec. 30, 2013 08:14 KST