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China plans to ease one-child policy, end forced labor camps

November 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: After decades of global condemnation over the practices, China today announced the easing of one controversial government policy and the abolishment of another.

Jeffrey Brown explains.

JEFFREY BROWN: The announcement heralded the biggest change in China’s one-child policy in three decades. Millions more couples will be allowed to have two children, provided at least one parent was an only child.

The existing policy, enforced by mandatory abortions and sterilization, was deeply unpopular. And so was the system of forced labor camps that Communist Party leaders announced they’re abolishing. That system, established in 1957, allows police to imprison people for up to four years without formal arrest or trial.

The reforms came out of a four-day meeting of top communist officials, led by President Xi Jinping, who took office earlier this year. Xi consolidated his power at the gathering with the formation of a national security committee to oversee the party, government and military. The party meeting also agreed to let the private market play a more important role in the world’s second-largest economy.