Long-term: China's one-child policy has been in place for decades
- The Chinese government says the one-child policy eased poverty
- However, the strict measures led to abortions and sterilisations
China will loosen its decades-old one-child policy and abolish a much-criticised labour camp system, its ruling Communist Party said.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the party announced the changes in a policy document on Friday following a key, four-day meeting of party leaders that ended on Tuesday in Beijing.
Under the new family-planning rules, couples can have two children if one of the parents is an only child.
China's one-child policy currently limits most urban couples to one child and allows two children for rural families if their first-born is a girl.
Other exceptions previously also included allowing two children for parents who are themselves both singletons.
The labour camp - or ‘re-education through labour’ - system was established to punish early critics of the Communist Party but now is used by local officials to deal with people challenging their authority on issues including land rights and corruption.
Strict: China's one-child policy currently limits most urban couples to one child
Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent Beijing lawyer who has represented several former labour camp detainees in seeking compensation, welcomed the abolition of the extra-legal 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 labour camps... it makes it much harder for the police to put these people they clamp down on into labour camps,’ Mr Pu said.
He added: ‘This is progress.'
China's family-planning policy limits most urban couples to one child and allows two children for rural families if their first-born is a girl. It also allows two children for parents who themselves are both singletons.'
The Chinese government credits the one-child policy introduced in 1980 with preventing hundreds of millions of births and helping lift countless families out of poverty.
But the strict limits have led to forced abortions and sterilizations, even though such measures are illegal.
Couples who flout the rules face hefty fines, seizure of their property and loss of their jobs.
Last year, a government think tank urged China's leaders to start phasing out the policy and allow two children for every family by 2015, saying the country had paid a ‘huge political and social cost’.
The China Development Research Foundation said the policy had resulted in social conflict, high administrative costs and led indirectly to a long-term gender imbalance because of illegal abortions of female foetuses and the infanticide of baby girls by parents who cling to a traditional preference for a son.