China's legislature adopts resolution easing one-child policy

China's population controls restrict couples to one child, unless the couple are both single children, rural residents or ethnic minorities.

China's top legislature passed a resolution that will ease China's authoritarian 1980's one-child policy on Saturday, allowing couples a second child if one of the parents was an only child.

The Communist Party's leadership announced the measure in November, and the National People's Congress (NPC), China's highest legislature, approved it, according to Xinhua, a state-run news agency in China.

"The bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the NPC passed a resolution on family planning, entrusting provincial congresses and their standing committees to make their own calls on implementation," Xinhua reported.

Minorities are exempt from China's one-child policy, parents living in rural areas can have a second child if the first-born is a girl, and if neither parents had siblings, a second child is allowed.

"The changes come against a backdrop of steadily declining birth rates and changing demographics, reducing the working population," Xinhua reported. "The birth rate is relatively low and was showing signs of falling further. The rate has dropped to between 1.5 and 1.6 since the 1990s, which means each Chinese woman of child-bearing age gives birth to 1.5 to 1.6 children, on average."

The NPC also passed a proposal to end an extralegal way to detain people, which allowed authorities to imprison people in camps for a maximum of four years without trial.

Known as laojiao, a re-education through labor camps, the Soviet Gulag punishment system has often been criticized for its human rights abuses. Indeed, according to the BBC, Human Rights Watch and the Ministry of Justice reported China had 260 labor camps with about 160,000 inmates in 2013.

These reforms come as 512 Chinese municipal lawmakers in Hunan Province resigned in a sweeping electoral fraud scandal in which officials accepted bribes to elect provincial assembly members. 

The news came via Chinese state-run media and state television channel CCTV's Twitter account. 

State news reported an investigation showed about 18 million dollars was given in bribes to lawmakers and staff, according to Hunan government statement.

"The fraud, involving such a huge number of lawmakers and a large amount of money, is serious in nature and has a vile impact," reported Xinhua, quoting a government statement. "This is a challenge to China's system of people's congresses, socialist democracy, law and Party discipline."