2020 NPC Session: NPC’s Imminent Decision on National Security in Hong Kong Explained

Readers would probably know by now that the ongoing NPC session’s agenda includes a new draft Decision on Establishing and Improving the Legal Systems and Implementation Mechanisms for Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region [关于建立健全香港特别行政区维护国家安全的法律制度和执行机制的决定]. This new bill was reviewed once by the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) on May 18 and had been kept a secret until Thursday night. We have studied the draft Decision and its accompanying explanation, and now offer the following explainer in Q&A format, focusing on the Decision’s contents and the legal questions it raises. This explainer is subject to the usual caveat that there could be further changes to the bill before it is approved next Thursday. We may add new Q&As in the coming days.

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2020 NPC Session: Agenda and Daily Schedule

On Friday, May 22, the 2020 NPC session released its agenda and daily schedule of meetings. The Session will open on the morning of Friday, May 22 and close on the afternoon of Thursday, May 28, lasting a total of seven days, the shortest since 1978. The session has not released a full schedule of press conferences; we will update this post when new press conferences are announced. All times below are in Beijing Time (UTC +8:00).

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2020 NPC Session: A Guide to China’s Civil Code

As the NPC comes into session today to review a draft of the People’s Republic’s first Civil Code [民法典], a legislative marathon will soon come to an end. The Code is a massive piece of legislation. Its latest draft includes 1260 articles, teeming with arcane legal terminology. Thus, if you want to read it for yourself, you might find the task daunting. In this post, we hope to make the Code just a bit more accessible. But our task here is a moderate one: we will not (and cannot) do a deep dive into the Code. Instead, we will give a brief overview of the Code’s drafting history, explain its significance, and provide a quick introduction to each of the Code’s subdivisions. We will focus on the new rules in the Code that have caught our attention, as well as issues that have engendered the most heated (sometimes quite public) debates.

All citations to the Code below are to its latest public draft (released in December 2019); other sources are not always cited. You can find all relevant legislative documents and prior drafts on this page.

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A Survey of Legislative Responses to COVID-19 by Chinese Provinces

Five months after China first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) cases of pneumonia of an unknown cause on December 31, 2019, that disease, now known as COVID-19, continues to ravage the world, causing public health emergencies of a scale unseen in recent history. In response, governments worldwide have resorted to extraordinary measures in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading: from shutting borders to locking down cities, from closing businesses to mandating social distancing.

In China, local (especially provincial) legislatures, like other governmental bodies, have played a part in epidemic response. Acting in an almost concerted fashion, over twenty provincial legislatures[1] adopted decisions dealing with COVID-19—which we will call “COVID Decisions”—in a twelve-day period in early February. These Decisions address the responsibilities of a range of parties: government entities, businesses, medical institutions, social groups, communities, individuals, etc. (All but Shaanxi’s require individuals to wear masks in public, for example). Equally important, the Decisions also grant emergency powers to local governments.

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NPC Calendar: May 2020

On May 1, a decision of the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) authorizing the suspension of certain statutory provisions as part of a pilot program in the Hainan Free Trade Zone takes effect.

The 13th NPCSC is expected to convene for its 18th session by mid-May to discuss a draft of its annual work report and other documents to prepare for the NPC’s 2020 annual session. The Council of Chairmen is expected to meet soon after the Labor Day holiday (May 1–5) to decide on the dates and agenda of the session.

The 13th NPC will convene for its third annual session on Friday, May 22. The session’s agenda has not yet been finalized, but we expect it to include the following:

  • Hear and deliberate the Government Work Report;
  • Hear and deliberate work reports by the NPCSC, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate;
  • Review and approve a report on the execution of the 2019 National Economic and Social Development Plan and on the draft 2020 National Economic and Social Development Plan;
  • Approve the 2020 National Economic and Social Development Plan;
  • Review and approve a report on the execution of the 2019 Central and Local Budgets and on the draft 2020 Central and Local Budgets;
  • Approve the 2020 Central Budget; and
  • Deliberate the draft Civil Code [民法典].

We also expect the session to retroactively approve the resignation of Feng Zhonghua [冯忠华] as an NPCSC member in June 2019. He has since been appointed a Vice Governor of Hainan. Under Chinese law, an NPCSC member must resign if he is to serve in an administrative organ.

On May 21, the NPC session will convene for a preparatory meeting to select members of the Presidium (which will preside over the session) and to finalize the session’s agenda. The Presidium will then immediately meet to decide on (among other matters) the session’s daily schedule. Shortly thereafter the session is expected to hold its first press conference.

Though the NPC’s annual session ordinarily lasts around ten days, several outlets have reported that this year’s would be shortened to only seven days. On the last day of the session, we expect the NPC to approve the Civil Code.


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NPCSC Seeks Public Comments on Draft Biosecurity Law, Copyright Law Amendment, Armed Police Law Revision & Two Other Bills

The NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) is soliciting public comments on the following five bills through June 13, 2020:

All linked files are PDF documents in Chinese. English translations will be provided if and when available. The accompanying explanations of these drafts can be read here (PDF).

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Translation: NPCSC’s New Public Health Legislative Plan in Response to COVID-19

On Wednesday, April 29, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) released a special legislative plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that is devoted to improving China’s public health legislation. According to an NPCSC spokesperson, the pandemic has exposed the “gaps” in and the “weaknesses” of the current legal scheme. Because to fix those problems many laws need to be enacted or updated, the authorities thought it appropriate to formulate a legislative plan to proceed in a coordinated manner. The spokesperson also said that the legislature would approach different laws in different ways: some would need complete overhauls, while some (like newer ones) would need only “targeted” changes. Finally, as expected, the NPCSC will focus on public health legislation in the near future, and other legislative projects would be deprioritized as a result.

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NPCSC Session Watch: COVID-19 Responses, Copyright, Armed Police Reform & Silence on 2020 NPC (Updated)

UPDATE (Apr. 28, 2020): The NPCSC decided on April 29 that the NPC’s 2020 session will start on May 22. We do not know how long the session will be at this point. They ordinarily last around ten days, but several outlets reported that this year’s would be shortened to only a week. The official schedule is expected to be released the day before the session starts, on May 21.

The NPCSC also approved the revision to the Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste, effective September 1, 2020, and the decision to authorize the suspension of certain statutory provisions in the Hainan Free Trade Zone, to expire on December 31, 2024.

UPDATE (Apr. 26, 2020): According to the official readout of the first plenary meeting of the NPCSC’s session this week, the Council of Chairpersons has indeed submitted a draft decision on the new dates for NPC’s 2020 session. We expect the NPCSC to adopt the draft decision and announce the new dates this Wednesday. Bloomberg reported last week that the NPC might meet from May 23 to 30.


The Council of Chairpersons decided on Friday, April 17 to convene the 17th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) from April 26 to 29. Contrary to what we have expected, this upcoming session seems to be a regular bi-monthly session, where the NPCSC will review seven legislative bills. Below, we will briefly review the session’s agenda before turning to the question on everyone’s mind (well, ours at least): when will the NPC meet this year?

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Hong Kong Appeals Court Affirmed Judiciary’s Power to Invalidate Unconstitutional Pre-Handover Laws Despite Contrary NPCSC Decision

On Thursday, April 9, the Hong Kong Court of Appeal (Court or COA) affirmed in part and reversed in part a lower court ruling from last November that partially invalidated the city’s “mask ban”: a prohibition on wearing facial covering that prevents identification in certain public gatherings. In sum, the Court upheld the colonial-era emergency law serving as the legal basis for the ban and allowed the government to enforce the ban in unauthorized public gatherings. Below we will focus on a section of the COA’s opinion that held that Hong Kong courts may strike down laws enacted before Hong Kong’s 1997 handover to China that are later found to violate the Hong Kong Basic Law, notwithstanding a prior determination by the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) to the contrary.

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NPC Calendar: April 2020

Even as China now officially reports few domestic COVID-19 cases everyday, the situation is still fluid in light of the steady influx of imported cases and over a thousand cases of asymptomatic infections. It is therefore hard, if not impossible, to predict the NPC’s legislative activities this month.

Reuters reported in mid-March that the NPC’s delayed annual session had been “tentatively” scheduled for “late April or early May.” If that is still the official plan, we expect the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) to meet by mid-April to set a date for the NPC’s meeting and to also discuss a draft of its annual work report and other documents to prepare for the NPC’s annual gathering. The Council of Chairpersons could meet as soon as this week to decide on the agenda and dates of the NPCSC’s pre-NPC session.

The NPCSC was scheduled to convene for a regular bimonthly session in late April, but that is now unlikely to take place given the reported schedule of the NPC session. The NPCSC may choose to combine this scheduled “full” session (where multiple bills are usually considered) with the shorter, pre-NPC session (where, as noted above, only preparatory work for the NPC session is usually done) for a longer pre-NPC session. If so, some of the following bills may return for further review:

This post will be updated if the NPC’s 2020 session is scheduled to start this month.


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