2017 NPC Session: Press Conference Provides First Look at NPCSC’s Tasks in 2017

The 5th Session of the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC) held its first press conference earlier on Saturday. The spokeswoman for the Session, Fu Ying, who is also Chairwoman of the NPC Foreign Affairs Committee, answered a total of 15 questions from both Chinese and foreign journalists. While her answers on China’s 2017 national defense budget made headlines elsewhere, here we’ll focus instead on what she revealed about the top legislature’s tasks planned for 2017.

Early during the press conference, the People’s Daily asked what actions the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) would take in 2017 to tackle environmental problems. First, Fu indicated that in April the NPCSC would hear the State Council’s feedbacks on a 2016 NPCSC report that faulted its enforcement of the Environmental Protection Law. In addition, she said that the NPCSC is “rushing” to revise the Law on Water Pollution Prevention and Control and to draft a Law on Soil Pollution Prevention and Control. The former was submitted to the NPCSC last December, and a second reading should be scheduled soon. Fu didn’t specify whether the second law would be submitted in 2017. (The NPC Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee previously stated that it planned to submit the law this year.)

Later, a Southern Metropolis reporter asked what protections of personal information would the new Cybersecurity Law afford, and whether the NPC intends to formulate a specialized law on the protection of personal information. In response to the first question, Fu cited a provision of the Law (Article 41) that bars network operators from gathering personal information unrelated to the services they provide. She also indicated that in 2017 the NPCSC would inspect the enforcement of the Law, which won’t take effect until June 1. It’s very uncommon for the NPCSC to inspect the enforcement of a law in the same year when that law takes effect. Fu didn’t answer the second question directly, but recognized the legislature’s responsibility to “continuously improve the legal system” in order to keep up with “new technologies and new business models.”

Fu separately mentioned that the NPCSC would inspect the enforcement of (among others) the Drug Administration Law, Product Quality Law, and Minors Protection Law this year.

Next, China National Radio raised two questions: How would the NPCSC supervise the new supervision commissions that are established as part of the anti-corruption system overhaul. And whether the NPC would consider amending the Constitution to further advance this reform—that is, to give the supervision commissions constitutional status. Fu punted on the first question. In theory, the supervision commissions are responsible to the people’s congresses, but sources quoted by Reuters claimed that “in reality the party leadership would have the final say.” Fu did reveal that a State Supervision Law—which will prescribe the structures, duties, and powers of the supervision commissions—would be submitted to the NPCSC this year. Responding to the second question, Fu simply said that attempts to amend the Constitution would be made “under the leadership of the Party Central Committee,” which has long had the sole authority to initiate constitutional amendments, notwithstanding the NPC’s constitutional authority to do the same.

The Guangming Daily went on to ask about the NPCSC’s future plans for culture-related legislations. Fu said the NPCSC is in the process of formulating Cultural Industry Promotion Law (still drafting) and Public Libraries Law (comments solicited on December 9, 2015); and amending the Cultural Relics Protection Law (comments solicited on December 28, 2015) and Copyright Law (comments solicited on June 6, 2014). She didn’t provide specific timetables for these laws; their latest known statuses are in parentheses.

Towards the end of the press conference, in response to questions inquiring about the progress of revising the Securities Law and enacting Real Estate Tax Law, Fu disclosed that the former will be reviewed again at the NPCSC’s April session, and that the latter won’t be submitted this year (and therefore not during the 12th NPC). Both are top priority projects in the 12th NPCSC’s five-year legislative plan.

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