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Marni Soupcoff

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The Week In Review: Before You Start Admiring China...

Posted: 11/17/2013 1:43 am

This week China announced a reform package that promises to eliminate the country's system of labour camps and relax its "one child policy." Anyone concerned with human rights would have to consider these changes to be good news (though I hope, for Justin Trudeau's sake, that they won't impede China's ability to go green fast and invest in solar). However, it's still wise to remember how far from a free country China remains. The "easing" of the one-child policy amounts to allowing a couple to have two children if one of the parents is him- or herself an only child. It's a limited exception to an authoritarian and intrusive rule. The government is still coercively dictating family size and reproductive choices -- and punishing those who don't comply. Reports of forced abortions and sterilization continue.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government's discussion of its new reforms included amped up talk about the threats posed by the Internet and social media, suggesting that further crackdowns and censorship of online speech could be in the works. It also remains to be seen whether China eliminating labour "re-education" camps will mean eliminating forced labour, and detention without trial, altogether. Or if it will simply be a case of shifting these practices to similarly objectionable systems with new or different names.

And of course, the government's pledge to allow more competition is a limited one: more competition with state-owned industries. The state itself? That's still a monopoly situation with only the Communist Party having the right to form a government. Just a few things to keep in mind before getting too giddy about China's latest amendments.

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  • In this Sunday March 10, 2013 photo, soldiers dressed as ushers guard front row seats on the second floor of the main hall of the Great Hall of the People, while a live video image of Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party's General Secretary and the nation's incoming-President, is shown on a screen during a plenary session of the National People's Congress, in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Sunday, March 10, 2013 photo, delegates from the Chinese People's Liberation Army march in formation into the Great Hall of the People to attend a plenary session of the National People's Congress, in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Tuesday, March 5, 2013 photo, a police car drives past while paramilitary policemen in uniforms and in plainclothes keep watch on people who gathered to see a flag-raising ceremony at dawn at Tiananmen Square before the opening session of the annual National People's Congress that is to be held later in the morning inside the nearby Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Sunday, March 10, 2013 photo, a monk, who is also a delegate, holds a cup of tea while looking for an unoccupied chair outside the main hall of the Great Hall of the People, where a plenary session of the National People's Congress is being held, in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Sunday, March 10, 2013 photo, delegates sip tea, chat, rest, and take photos outside the main hall of the Great Hall of the People, where a plenary session of the National People's Congress is being held, in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Sunday, March 10, 2013 photo, a delegate takes a nap while other delegates chat and drink tea outside the main hall of the Great Hall of the People, where a plenary session of the National People's Congress is being held, in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Thursday, March 7, 2013 photo, delegates of the National People's Congress chat, use a mobile phone, and give an interview in a corridor at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Thursday, March 7, 2013 photo, National People's Congress delegates from eastern China's Fujian province attend a group discussion, with top provincial leaders seated in the center, at Fujian Hall inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Thursday, March 7, 2013 photo, soldiers dressed as ushers guard a corridor that leads to halls where closed-door meetings of the National People's Congress delegations are held, while an anti-explosive device, left, and a vase, right, are placed nearby, inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Thursday, March 7, 2013 photo, National People's Congress delegates, one dressed in ethnic attire, walk past a glass screen to join a group discussion of delegates from central China's Hunan province at Hunan Hall inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Thursday, March 7, 2013 photo, top regional officials, who are also delegates, shake hands while other National People's Congress delegates from northern China's Inner Mongolia region wait for a group discussion to begin at the Inner Mongolia Hall inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Thursday, March 7, 2013 photo, soldiers dressed as ushers guard corridors, stairways, and elevators while a delegate, second from right, walks past them inside the Great Hall of the People, where delegates of the National People's Congress are holding group discussions in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Tuesday, March 5, 2013 photo, delegates from the People's Liberation Army walk up steps to enter the Great Hall of the People to attend an opening session of the National People's Congress on a hazy day in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Monday, March 4, 2013 photo, a soldier dressed as an usher, front, stands guard at the Great Hall of the People, while delegates, one of them wearing an ethic outfit, walk up the steps to attend a session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Monday, March 4, 2013 photo, ethnic minority delegates wearing traditional attire march to the Great Hall of the People to attend a session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Tuesday, March 5, 2013 photo, a delegate, right, enters the main hall of the Great Hall of the People while soldiers dressed as ushers guard the entrances during the opening session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Tuesday, March 5, 2013 photo, a delegate leaves the main hall of the Great Hall of the People while other delegates of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference read copies of a government work report during the opening session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Tuesday, March 5, 2013 photo, delegates leave the Great Hall of the People after an opening session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

  • In this Sunday, March 3, 2013 photo, journalists wander in front of an electronic screen that is showing slogans as part of a Chinese Communist Party's propaganda video at Tiananmen Square, while the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference is held in the nearby Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. The slogan reads "To deepen the study and implementation of the spirit of the Communist Party's 18th National Congress." (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

 

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