China has long been the epicenter of human rights clashes. Many of the policies of the Communist country, from its one-child program to its “re-education camps,” have brought it into the sights of international rights organizations.
But recent changes have given some commentators hope that China may truly be experiencing reform. Adam Minter of Bloomberg explains:
“On Dec. 28, via a vote of senior Chinese lawmakers, the one-child policy was modestly loosened and—more significantly—laojiao [the re-education camp policy] was formally abolished. Indeed, the laojiao system had already begun to wither almost immediately after Xi's announcement, as tens of thousands of prisoners from hundreds of often horrific camps were quickly paroled. By now, just weeks later, many camps have been shut down or are being converted into regular jails.
“This could actually be that rarest of things: a positive Chinese human-rights story. Most importantly, it's an optimistic sign that Xi Jinping’s government is interested in and—crucially—capable of instigating real reform that benefits the lives of ordinary citizens.”
These reforms may not have such altruistic motives, however. Gender imbalance (due, in a large part, to sex selective abortions) and an aging population may be forcing China’s hand on the one-child policy.
According to Chinese state media, the laojiao labor camps have been rendered “superfluous” by the legal system. But changes will take time and could be limited to certain areas. BBC reports:
“It is expected that reforms will be rolled out gradually and incrementally around the country, with provincial authorities entrusted to make their own decisions on implementation according to the local demographic situation.”