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China legislature abolishes controversial penal labor system

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) [official website], China's top legislature, passed a resolution Saturday abolishing the country's penal labor system. The "re-education through labor" system was put in place [AP report] during the 1950's and has allowed the Chinese police to send anyone to prison for up to four years without a trial. The decision to reform the much-criticized penal system was initially reached in November during the Third Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee [Xinhua materials]. In January China's Communist Party Politics and Law Committee head Meng Jianzhu [China Vitae backgrounder] notified Chinese media sources of the nation's plan to end [JURIST report] its 56 year-old "re-education through labor" program. Despite the abolition of the program, individuals already interned under the system will not be released. At the start of this year, China reportedly had 260 labor camps [BBC report] holding about 160,000 inmates.

The NPC this week followed through on a number of major policy changes planned during the November Third Plenum of the CPC Central Committee. Also on Saturday, the NPC passed a resolution [JURIST report] easing the countries one-child population control policy. The major policy change is expected to be implemented gradually with the NPC entrusting provincial congresses and their standing committees to make their own decisions on implementation based on demographic conditions in their provinces. The one-child policy [TIME backgrounder] was adopted by China in 1979 to curb rapid population growth in the nation.

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