25th Session Watch Pt. 1: NPCSC to Consider E-Commerce Law and Several Reform Authorizations

The 12th NPCSC will convene for its next session, which will be the last one in 2016, from December 19 to 25, the Council of Chairmen decided on Monday. The Council also proposed a preliminary agenda for the 25th Session, which features six legislative bills, three authorizations of reforms, and several items pertaining to next year’s NPC plenary session and the upcoming 13th NPC. As usual, in the first part of this installment of Session Watch, we’ll take a look at the agenda of the upcoming session.

Legislative Bills

This Session will consider the following six legislative bills:

Law Upcoming Deliberation Previous Deliberation Prediction Notes
General Provisions of the Civil Code 3rd November 2016 Will be submitted to the NPC plenary session next March for a fourth and final reading 12th NPCSC Legislative Plan* Class I Project
Chinese Medicine Law 3rd August 2016 Will be passed by this Session 12th NPCSC Legislative Plan Class I Project
Law on Ensuring Public Cultural Services 3rd November 2016 Will be passed by this Session 12th NPCSC Legislative Plan Class I Project
Environmental Protection Tax Law 2nd August 2016 One more deliberation likely needed 12th NPCSC Legislative Plan Class I Project
E-Commerce Law 1st Won’t be passed by this Session; At least two more deliberations needed 12th NPCSC Legislative Plan Class II Project; Drafted by the NPC Financial and Economic Affairs Committee
Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law amendment 1st Won’t be passed by this Session; Two more deliberations most likely needed 12th NPCSC Legislative Plan Class I Project; Passed and submitted by the State Council on December 7, 2016

* Please refer to the Blog’s sidebar for links to both Chinese and English versions of this Legislative Plan.

Reform Authorizations

Also submitted to the 25th Session were three draft decisions relating to reforms of the state supervision (aka anti-corruption) system, the military officer system, and a certain (unknown) aspect of the civilian personnel system.

State supervision system reform

The Council of Chairmen proposed a draft decision to conduct pilot projects of state supervision system reform in Beijing, Shanxi, and Zhejiang. The details of this reform were discussed at length in a prior post, and therefore won’t be repeated here. As previously discussed, a NPCSC authorization is legally required because this reform will expand the powers of provincial-level people’s congresses.

Military officer system reform

The Central Military Commission (CMC) asked the NPCSC for permission to temporarily adjust the application of certain provisions of relevant laws during the reform of the military officer system. While the details of the CMC’s request have yet to be revealed, the direction of the reform has already been made clear elsewhere.

In a policy document released in early 2016, with respect to reforming the military officer system, the CMC decided to (1) “adjust the categorization of military personnel”; to (2) “gradually establish a hierarchy led by military ranks [军衔主导的等级制度]”; and to (3) “promote the professionalization of military officers.”

(1) Under Article 2 of the Military Officers in Active Service Law, military officers are classified as operational, political, logistics, armaments, and specialized technical officers (“军事”, “政治”, “后勤”, “装备”, and “专业技术” in Chinese, respectively)—a categorization that has been labeled as “rough” by the PLA Daily’s WeChat account, which also stated that the system will be “perfected and improved.”

(2) While the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) does have a military rank system (from General (上将) to Second Lieutenant (少尉)), it is overshadowed by another hierarchy—one that is based an officer’s post, ranging from the CMC Chairman to an officer at the level of a platoon leader (排职). In fact, an officer’s military rank is conditioned on its post, and one who has a higher rank but a lower post than another is the latter’s inferior (see Regulations on the Military Ranks of Officers of the Chinese PLA, art. 5 & 11). In addition, other matters such as the minimum term of service, retirement age, and intra-military exchange are tied to an officer’s post as well (see, e.g., Military Officers in Active Service Law, art. 14, 28, & 43). According to the PLA Daily’s WeChat account, the reform will give military ranks a more prominent position in the military hierarchy.

(3) Under the Military Officers in Active Service Law, officers are required to retire when they reach the mandatory retirement age prescribed by the Law (Art. 46). In an attempt to professionalize military officers, the reform will de-emphasize the role that age plays and will allow military officers to serve longer than they currently do.

It’s very likely that the authorization will concern the the legal provisions mentioned above and also many others.

Civilian personnel system reform

Lastly, the State Council requested the NPCSC to allow it to suspend the enforcement of relevant provisions of the Civil Servant Law in certain regions and several central state organs. The reasons for such a request aren’t clear at this moment. We hope our more resourceful readers would be able to shed some light on the State Council’s request.

Other Items

This Session will consider a decision to convene the fifth, which will also be the last, plenary session of the 12th NPC. It’s expected to start next March 5 per customary practice.

In addition to the General Provisions of the Civil Code, this Session is expected to submit two other legislative bills to the next NPC session: measures for electing delegates from Hong Kong and Macau, respectively, to the 13th NPC.

What’s Missing?

The 2016 NPCSC Legislative Plan released last April listed two other legislative projects for the 25th Session: a draft revision to the Securities Law and a new International Criminal Justice Assistance Law.

The former was initially considered by the NPCSC in April 2015, but a second deliberation has been repeatedly postponed. To avoid ending the consideration of this bill under Article 42 of the Legislation Law, the NPCSC will need to schedule the draft revision for its April 2017 session at the latest.

The task of drafting an International Criminal Justice Assistance Law was assigned to the Ministry of Justice. In an report to the NPCSC last month, the NPC Foreign Affairs Committee, which is charged with submitting the draft law to the NPCSC, indicated that currently various department are working to improve the draft. It’s possible that the draft would be ready for submission next year.

Comments & Pingbacks

  1. On this point, “Lastly, the State Council requested the NPCSC to allow it to suspend the enforcement of relevant provisions of the Civil Servant Law in certain regions and several central state organs,” this may be linked to personnel reforms to the courts and procuracy, where in some areas judges and procurators are already being paid more than ordinary civil servants, and the concept is to have a regulatory system more appropriate to the role of judges and prosecutors.

    1. That possibility certainly crossed my mind, but my understanding of current Chinese laws (including the Civil Servant Law, the Judges Law, and the Procurators Law) is that they already created separate wage systems for judges and prosecutors. Also, if the request were related to reforms of the judicial system, it should have been the SPC and the SPP to submit the request instead of the State Council. I guess we’ll see what it’s about tomorrow.

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