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China on Saturday formally approved the partial loosening of its one-child policy more than three decades after it was put in place and abolished the "re-education through labour" camps introduced more than 50 years ago. The country’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress — considered a rubber stamp parliament for the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) —expectedly approved the resolutions on Saturday at the end of a six-day session. Under the new population policy, couples could have a second child if either parent is an only child. The suggested relaxation of the family planning policy is expected to bring China roughly 13 million more babies in five or six years, state media said earlier. The policy was introduced in the 1970s to prevent overpopulation in a country which was the world’s most populous nation. The official argument for keeping the policy in place for so long was that it prevented millions of births that would have strained the country’s resources. But in the past few years it had come under criticism because of China’s falling birth rate resulting in rapidly falling numbers in the working age category of China’s ageing population. Also, the enforcement of the policy was often seen as excessive with allegations of officials carrying out forced abortions.
The "re-education through labour" camps — or "laojiao" as it is known in Chinese —had also come under increasingly heavy criticism from rights groups. State media said that re-education through labour dealt with minor offenders whose crimes did not warrant full court proceedings. Controversially, it allowed detention for up to four years without an open trial. Officials said the concept had become "redundant" as the "historical mission of laojiao has been completed."