Chinese Lawmakers Deliberate Resolution on Birth Policy

December 17, 2013
Editor: Sylvia Liu

Chinese Lawmakers Deliberate Resolution on Birth Policy
Chinese lawmakers will deliberate a resolution on birth policy, which follows a proposal to allow couples to have a second child if one parent is an only child, at a bimonthly session next week. [Sohu]
Chinese lawmakers will deliberate a resolution on the country's birth policy, which follows a proposal to allow couples to have a second child if one parent is an only child, at a bimonthly session next week.

The resolution will be deliberated at a session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, to be held in Beijing on December 23-28, 2013.

Chinese couples with one spouse being an only child will be permitted to have two children, if they choose. The policy changes are part of deepening reforms suggested by the recently concluded Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held from November 9 -12, 2013.

The landmark initiative is a milestone decision that reflects consultation and public opinion, and will promote a harmonious and stable society into the 21st century, said a statement issued by the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

It is also necessary in order to address demographic challenges such as a rapidly aging population and a shrinking labor force, continued the statement.

According to Wang Pei'an, vice-minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, there is no uniform timetable for the implementation of the policy nationwide, and it will be up to local authorities to decide when to put the change into effect according to local population conditions.

"First, we have to amend current laws on family planning before we can enforce it. People will not have to wait too long," he added.

In areas where there is a high concentration of couples who will become eligible under the new regulations, those who are older and with a ticking biological clock will get permits first, he said.

China's family planning policy was first introduced in the late 1970s to rein in the surging population by limiting most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two children, if the first child born was a girl.

One-child families are entitled to bonuses and other benefits. Official statistics show such families account for 37.5 percent of China's more than 1.3 billion population.

The policy was later relaxed, with its current form stipulating that both parents must be only children if they are to have a second child.

Since its implementation, it is estimated that the policy has resulted in a reduction of some 400 million people in China. However, the policy has also been blamed for generating a number of social problems.

China's labor force, at about 940 million, decreased by 3.45 million year on year in 2012, marking the first absolute decrease. The labor force is estimated to decrease by about 29 million over the current decade. Meanwhile, the country's growing elderly population aged 60 and over, which accounts for 14.3 percent of the current total, is forecast to exceed one-third of the population in 2050.

Gender imbalance is another side effect of the one-child policy, as Chinese parents' traditional preference for male children has led to sex-selective abortions.

The session will also see lawmakers deliberating a motion to abolish the laojiao program, or re-education through labor. The laojiao system was adopted in 1957 for minor offenders whose crime is not severe enough to warrant court proceedings. It allows for detention of up to four years without an open trial.

In July 2013, central China's Hunan Provincial People's High Court ruled in favor of a rape victim's mother, Tang Hui, who sued a local authority for putting her in a labor camp. The 40-year-old mother was put into the labor camp after she publicly petitioned for harsher punishments for those found guilty of raping her daughter and forcing her into prostitution.

She was sent to a labor camp in Yongzhou for "seriously disturbing social order and exerting a negative impact on society" after protesting in front of local government buildings on August 2, 2012. She was sentenced to 18 months in the camp, but was released eight days later amid public outcry urging her release.

The latest motion follows key policy decisions last month stating that laojiao should be abolished to protect human rights.

Lawmakers will also review draft amendments to seven laws, including the administrative reconsideration law, the military facilities protection law, and the marine environment protection law.

The committee will also deliberate reports on the medium-term progress of the 2011-2015 development plan, rural poverty relief, and the compulsory education law.

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