By Interim staffShanghai, China’s most populous city and one of the first to adopt the country’s coercive one-child policy 31 years ago, has announced an exception to the rule. The city has declared that if two divorced individuals remarry and they are both only children, they may have a child together, even if they had children in their previous marriage. Previously, such couples could only have a child if one of the spouses was childless in the first marriage and there was a four-year gap between kids. Violators of the policy were fined three times the average annual Chinese salary.

Pro-life groups are barely heartened by the new policy, however.

Scott Weinberg, director of government and international affairs for the Population Research Institute, says such local initiatives are meant to create an image that China is changing. “But these local ordinances are exposed by national law, which permits local cadres to enforce ‘remedial measures,'” said Weinberg. “So, even if couples in Shanghai are able to have two children, they can still suffer crippling fines, have their homes destroyed or be tortured if they desire an additional child.”

Shanghai officials are quick to note that the modifications still respect the integrity of the one-child policy. Xia Yi, the vice-director of the Shanghai Municipal Population and Family Planning Commission, said, “The one-child policy will remain the basis for the new regulation.” She stressed that the changes will not encourage “more child-bearing.”