People’s Congress System Remains Effective Pillar Of China’s Development

On 5 March, national and global spotlight turned to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing where around 3,000 deputies gathered to open the second session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC). Over a span of seven days, the deputies, representing all of China’s ethnic groups, regions and sectors, discussed and decided on a range of issues critical for the country’s development. 

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the people’s congress system in China. By responding to the change of the times and the call of the people, the system has remained effective throughout China’s pursuit of modernisation. As a fundamental pillar of China’s political system, it continues to ensure that the people hold and exercise state power, and that they keep the nation’s future firmly in their own hands. 

An evolving system 

The decision to implement the people’s congress system in China was made at the first plenary session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in September 1949, immediately before the founding of the People’s Republic of China; but it was not until 1954 that the country held the first session of the First NPC. At the session, the NPC adopted a new version of the Constitution of China, which stipulated that all state power belongs to the people, and that the organs through which the people exercise state power are the NPC and the local people’s congresses. 

After that, the congress system enjoyed years of smooth development, during which the basic framework of its functioning was established, and an array of important laws were promulgated. On 1 July 1979, seven laws were passed during the second session of the Fifth NPC, including the law on election, criminal law and law on joint ventures. 

In 1999, the second session of the Ninth NPC amended the Constitution, stipulating that the People’s Republic of China be ruled in accordance with the law. At the end of 2010, one key task of the goal – establishing a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics – was completed, and the news was officially announced at the annual meeting of the NPC in March 2011. 

Another notable milestone of China’s law-based governance was the Civil Code adopted at the third session of the 13th NPC in 2020. It was the first law titled as a code since 1949. 

In recent years, the NPC has accelerated legislation efforts around the central goals of the country, with a focus on key, emerging, and foreign-related fields, to establish safeguards for the high-quality development. 

To boost efforts to curb pollution and beautify China, for example, the NPC has launched the formulation of an environment and ecology code, which, when passed, will become the country’s second piece of legislation called code after the Civil Code. Efforts were also made to promulgate or revise other laws in a range of areas such as national security, food security and foreign relations. So far, there are a total of 300 effective laws in China. 

The NPC has also intensified its efforts in fulfilling its other key functions such as supervising the implementation of the Constitution and laws as well as supervision of the state organs. Over the past year, the 14th NPC has inspected the implementation of five laws, including the Law on Work Safety, Wetland Protection Law, and Seed Law, to make sure these laws are followed as expected. 

People’s congress deputies collect opinions from local people in a neighbourhood in Hefei, Anhui Province, on 10 April 2023 (CNS) 

Listening to the people 

One major feature of the NPC is that it has its roots among the people. Soliciting public opinions has been an important way for the Standing Committee of the NPC to improve the quality of legislation. This has allowed legal provisions to align with the expectations of the people and social development. 

Seventy years ago, the draft of the 1954 version of the Constitution of China was open for public discussion. Within around three months, 150 million people participated in the discussion, submitting 1.18 million opinions. 

In another example, the Civil Code, which took five years to complete and became effective in 2021, solicited opinions from the public seven times, collecting over 1 million feedbacks from 425,000 people. 

The practice became mandatory in 2000, when the Legislation Law was implemented, which stipulates that the Standing Committee of the NPC should solicit opinions from various parties when formulating laws, and that opinions can be widely solicited from the whole society for important laws. 

The 14th NPC and its Standing Committee, which took office in 2023, have so far solicited public opinions for 24 drafts of laws, collecting over 200,000 opinions and suggestions from various walks of life. 

The channels for public participation in legislation was further expanded when an amendment was made to the Legislation Law in 2023, which incorporated the concept of legislative outreach office into the law. Directly associated with the standing committees of the people’s congresses at all levels, these offices are where people can express their expectations for future laws and offer suggestions. 

Topics closely related to people’s lives are discussed in these offices, such as urban facilities for the elderly and protection of women from workplace harassment. Information from these offices constitute an important input for China’s law-making practice. The outreach office in Shapingba District of Chongqing in southwest China, for example, has compiled and submitted 1,548 opinions and suggestions as of November 2023, among which 86 were adopted into eight national laws. 

Currently, 45 outreach offices have been established across the country by the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, along with over 6,500 outreach offices established at provincial and municipal levels. 

The NPC makes sure the voice of the people is heard also by having a substantial number of deputies from the grassroots. Out of the 2,977 deputies of the 14th NPC, 497 are workers and farmers, accounting for 16.69 percent, higher than the previous congress. 

These practices stand as vivid manifestation of China’s whole-process people’s democracy, which aligns the people’s will with national policies.

African Times has published this article in partnership with ChinAfrica Magazine.



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