The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) [official website], China's top legislature, passed a resolution Saturday easing the countries one-child population control policy. The major policy change is expected to be implemented [Xinhua report] 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. The resolution follows earlier discussions [JURIST report] in November during the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee [Xinhua materials] held in Beijing. The change in policy has been triggered by major demographic shifts in China. By 2030 over a quarter of the population will be over the age of 60 and the working population began to drop in 2012 by 3.45 million annually, a rate expected to increase over the next decade.
China has been under scrutiny for its human rights record, especially in the lead up to the country's election [JURIST report] in November to a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] beginning January 1. Earlier this week Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the Chinese government to drop all politically motivated charges against Xu Zhiyong [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and release the rights activist from prison. Xu, a prominent critic of China's one-party system and founder of the nongovernmental New Citizen's Movement [WSJ backgrounder], was arrested in April and faces five years in prison for organizing a series of small-scale protests to disrupt public order. In August Chinese writer, lawyer and human rights advocate Yang Maodong, commonly known by his pen-name Guo Feixiong [HRIC profile], became the second leader, following Xu, of the New Citizens movement to be arrested [JURIST report] on suspicion of disrupting the peace. In June a Chinese court in Huairou sentenced [JURIST report] Liu Hui, brother-in-law of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], to 11 years in prison on charges of fraud.