Saturday, November 16, 2013

China Announces Sweeping Economic and Social Reforms

Thank you Philip and Beijing!

A young boy holds his country's flag: China is set to relax its one-child policy. Photo: Reuters Read more:
A young boy holds his country’s flag: China is set to relax its one-child policy. Photo: Reuters
POSTED BY STEPHEN COOK/ GOLDEN AGE GAIA: China will relax its long-standing one-child policy and abolish a controversial labour camp system, according to a key reform roadmap announced by the ruling Communist Party.
China will allow couples to have a second child if one of the parents is an only child, according to the document released on Friday.
There was also a pledge to abolish the “re-education through labour” system as part of efforts to improve human rights and judicial practices.
The document, which outlines 60 policy aims split into 16 different categories, also said the government would seek to reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty.
China’s top leaders emerged from a four-day conference in Beijing on Tuesday, promising key economic and social reforms, including a promise to allow market forces to play a “decisive” role in its economy.
The gathering, known as the Third Plenum, had also decided to reduce “step by step” the number of crimes subject to the death penalty, Xinhua added.
The deeply unpopular labour camp system, known as “laojiao”, is largely used for petty offenders but is also blamed for widespread rights abuses by corrupt officials seeking to punish whistleblowers and those who try to complain about them to higher authorities.
Under the scheme, people can be sent for up to four years’ “re-education” by a police panel, without a court appearance.
It was introduced in 1957 as a faster method of handling minor offences.
A 2009 United Nations report estimated that 190,000 Chinese were locked up in such facilities.
Life in the camps can vary widely, but many prisoners face extremely long work days manufacturing goods or doing agricultural work, the Duihua Foundation, a US-based rights group, said in a report.
Pressure for change in the system has been building for years.
The national parliament has considered reforms to the system since at least 2005 but not passed related legislation.
In a high-profile case in August last year, Tang Hui, a mother from central Hunan province, was sentenced to a labour camp for petitioning repeatedly after her 11-year-old daughter was kidnapped and forced to work as a prostitute.
Tang had sought accountability for police officers that she said aided the culprits. She was freed after just over a week following a public outcry.
The next month a man in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing — who served two years in a labour camp for mocking an aggressive campaign that put thousands of people behind bars — was ruled by a local panel to have been sentenced unlawfully.
After China’s new leadership under Xi Jinping took charge of the Communist party in November last year, speculation about possible reform mounted.
State media said in January that the system would be abolished, but the reports were swiftly deleted and replaced with predictions of reform, with few details and no timetable.
Four pilot cities replaced re-education through labour with a system called “illegal behaviour rectification through education”, the Beijing News said later, without explaining the differences between the two systems.
Premier Li Keqiang said at a major gathering of the national parliament in March that details might be unveiled by year’s end.
It was not immediately clear Friday how it would be replaced.
But analysts say the abolition of the system could face resistance as local governments profit from products made by camp prisoners and rely on the punishment to keep social order.
By Philip Wen, China correspondent for Fairfax Media – November 15, 2013

Reuters reports:

The Great Hall of the People, where the Chinese Communist Party plenum is being held, is seen behinds red flags in Tiananmen square in Beijing November 12, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon
The Great Hall of the People, where the Chinese Communist Party plenum is being held, is seen behinds red flags in Tiananmen square in Beijing November 12, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon
(Reuters) – China released a raft of detailed reform plans on Friday, promising sweeping changes to the economy and the country’s social fabric as it seeks to unleash new sources of growth after three decades of breakneck expansion show signs of faltering.
A reform document released by the Communist Party following a four-day conclave of its top leaders said China would accelerate capital account convertibility, scrap residency restrictions in small cities and townships, integrate urban and rural social security systems and push forward with an environmental tax, among many other measures.
China will also ease its family planning policies and abolish a controversial labor camp system, according to the document, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday.
The document was approved by the leaders’ meeting. In an initial communique they had promised “decisive” results by 2020.
“Whilst further assessment and detail is needed, the policy moves on the surface appear to be a sizeable step in the right direction,” said Keith Bowman, equity analysts at Hargreaves Lansdown.
“Any actions which aid the domestic Chinese economy and therefore help re-balance the global economy should be welcomed with open arms.”
The statement was in line with a leaked document that circulated widely on social media earlier, helping fuel the stock market’s strongest rally in two months.
China’s economy has grown at a double digit rate for three decades but the government expects the rate of expansion to slip to 7.5 percent this year, the weakest pace in 23 years.
The reforms are part of government plans to shift the main growth drivers away from investment and exports to services and consumption, more in line with developed economies.
To achieve that, Beijing wants to encourage millions of rural Chinese to move to live in urban areas, but that requires major land and residency reform that currently are seen as impediments to the plan.
Beijing newsroom – November 16, 2013

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