The Communist Party of China (CPC) will loosen the nations one-child population control policy, according to documents released following the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee [Xinhua materials] held in Beijing earlier this week. The policy will allow [BBC report] families where one parent is an only child to have two children. The one-child policy [TIME backgrounder] was adopted by China in 1979 to curb rapid population growth in the nation. According to the Chinese state media agency, Xinhua, China wants to maintain [Xinhua report] a population of around 1.5 billion and increase the nation's fertility rate to 1.8 children per woman. Exception to the policy already exist in rural parts of the country, where families are allowed two children if the first is a girl, and among certain ethnic minorities. China's aging population [BBC backgrounder] has been a major concern for country; currently 14.3 percent of the population is over the age of 60, with estimates that by 2050 the percentage will jump to nearly a third of the population.
China has been under scrutiny for its human rights record, especially in the lead up to the country's election [JURIST report] earlier this week to a three-year term on the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] beginning January 1. In October a group of independent UN rights experts expressed concern [JURIST report] over reports that Chinese human rights activists have been subject to harassment for their attempts to participate in a UN human rights assessment of China. The activists have reportedly been prevented from participating in protests or leaving the country as this month's second review of China's human rights record approaches. In response to the allegations a week later China defended [JURIST report] its human rights record to the UN, insisting it was abiding by its obligations and cooperating with inquiries.