By Le Li and Alastair Jamieson
16 January 2013
BEIJING (NBC News) – China has quelled speculation its controversial "one-child" policy is to be scrapped, instead announcing Wednesday that family planning laws to curb the birth rate will remain.
"The policy should be a long-term one and its primary goal is to keep a low birthrate," Wang Xia, minister in charge of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said.
The pronouncement comes after months of speculation that the decades-old restriction would be abandoned.
In October, a Chinese government think tank urged the policy be relaxed to allow two children for every family in the country by 2015.
"I’m surprised," said Professor Shaun Breslin, associate fellow at U.K. think tank, Chatham House. "Almost everything we had heard in recent months pointed towards a relaxation of one-child."
The 1979 law prohibits about one-third of China’s 1.3 billion citizens from having a second child. The policy is officially backed up by fines, but campaigners say more than one million forced abortions are carried out every year.
It has slowed the spectacular growth of the country’s population, preventing an estimated 400 million births over three decades. [more]