November 16, 2013

China relaxes ‘one-child’ policy rules

Human rights groups, who wanted the policy abolished, also hail a decision to scrap labor camps.

By Simon Denyer And William Wan
The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

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Parents play with their children at a kids’ play area in a shopping mall in Beijing last January. With China’s one-child policy, birth rates plunged from 4.77 children per woman in the early 1970s to 1.64 in 2011, according to estimates by the United Nations.

The Associated Press

The key question, he said, is whether China plans to replace its labor camps with another system that would still allow police to imprison suspects without a trial. “So far there is every indication they are going to do this, under something new called ‘correctional behavior law for minor offenders,’” Bequelin said.

Xi’s own father was sacked as vice premier during China’s 1966-76 Cultural Revolution and imprisoned for seven years. The abolition of the labor camps is believed to be something for which he personally advocated, over significant internal opposition from within the Communist Party.

Experts said the decision also appeared to be in line with Xi’s attempts to cut down the powers of the state security apparatus, for whom the labor camp system had been a powerful tool.

Friday’s policy document, released three days after the conclusion of the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party, was drafted under the direct supervision of Xi and appeared to further consolidate his powers.

A new State Security Committee is to be established, with control over both domestic security and foreign policy, and is likely to report directly to the president.

Analysts say the new committee could bear some similarities to the U.S. National Security Council.

It is partly an attempt to bring greater coordination and clarity to China’s sometimes disjointed foreign policy, and also to strengthen Xi’s control over internal security, they say. A newly created team to hasten economic reforms also gives Xi more power to push through measures that may face internal opposition from powerful vested interests.

“Comprehensively deepening reform is a complicated systematic project,” Xi said. “It is impossible to realize it if we only rely on one or a few departments, so a higher-level leading department needed to be set up.”

The new team, he said, would “plan as whole, coordinate, push forward, supervise and urge” reforms at all levels.

Xi, in a written statement that was read on China Central Television, said Internet and information security was a new challenge for national security, and the management of it needed to be better coordinated and strengthened.

Since taking over as president in March, Xi has come under fire from human rights groups for intensifying China’s harsh controls over freedom of speech and the Internet, and for arresting dozens of dissidents.

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