In a comprehensive reform document released this week, the rulers of the People’s Republic of China have outlined proposed changes to key economic and social policy, including their stance on Family Planning Policy and Labour Camps, the likes of which have not been seen in decades.
The One Child Policy or “family planning policy“, which has caused countless issues such as sex-based birth rate disparity, unequal and unfair enforcement, abandonment of unwanted children, birth tourism, forced sterilization and abortions, infanticide and the ‘Leftover Women’ phenomenon, would loosen its current restrictions on couples, making it so that if one person in the marriage is an only child they can now have a second child.
A senior economist at the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges has said that “The reforms are unprecedented…Reforms in 1990s were limited to some areas, now reforms are all-round.”
Vocal campaigner against the one-child policy and US Representative Chris Smith, sought to remind the global community that there would still be many family planning restrictions in place and that “gullible Westerners” shouldn’t be too quick to pat China on the back as the government has previously made promises and not come through.
Which is, rude.
A former leader of pro-democracy protests (including the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstration) Chai Ling, has said that “This is a small step forward, but far from what needs to happen, which is completely abolishing the one-child policy.”
Also amongst the reforms was a pledge to abolish the “re-education through labour” system, the controversial labor camps that were introduced in the 50s yet continue to exist and imprison citizens without due legal process; the United Nations estimated in a 2009 report that the Chinese government was imprisoning 190,000 people.
So, once again, the reforms are being praised but many are still calling them half-measures, including Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, who pointed out that no discussion of replacement detention has been forthcoming and that “the suppression of dissent continues”.
Now to the internet…
As part of the greater effort by President Xi Jinping to crackdown on activism and online political discussion; based on new laws users who are accused of ‘spreading rumours online’ could serve jail time. Using what has been described by political scientist Gary King as the “most extensive effort to selectively censor human expression ever implemented” the government continues to strengthen the The Great Firewall of China. In an explanation of their policies The Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China specifically addressed how social media was undermining their control:
“Following the increasing power of online media, Internet media and industry management has lagged far behind the quick changes that have come with its development. In particular [we] face the rapid growth of social networking and instant communication tools, like Weike and WeChat, which disseminate information rapidly, have a large influence and broad coverage, and have a strong ability to mobilize society.”
Using their ‘Sevel Base Lines’ to create a ‘clean internet’ thousands of censors work to deal with the rapid growth of networking platforms; a former censor who used to do such work said that “The most frequently deleted posts are the political ones, especially those criticising the government, but Sina grants relatively more room for discussions on democracy and constitutionalism because there are leaders who want to keep the debate going.” The concern being that because citizens can communicate so quickly over social media there is a danger of slips in censorship, meaning that there could be further restrictions imposed on speed.
After just eight months since President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang officially came to power their party are promising “decisive results” on its reforms will be reached by 2020 but, as pointed out by many, their proposal has come with no actual deadlines for progress points and few implementation details.