27th Session Watch Pt. 2: NPCSC Concludes Session with New Laws, Decisions

Earlier this afternoon, at the closing meeting of its 27th Session, the 12th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) voted on and approved a series of legislative bills as well as decisions on personnel and reform of the judicial system. The following is a quick review of the actions taken by the NPCSC today.

Legislations

First, after two deliberations, the NPCSC today approved the revised Surveying and Mapping Law, which will take effect on July 1, 2017. The Law underwent its last major revision 15 years ago in 2002.

Since we don’t pretend to be experts on anything related to surveying, mapping, or geo-information, we won’t attempt to summarize the highlights of the newest revision—though national security is certainly an important theme there. For those of you who are interested in the revision, we suggest that you check out the following legislative records released by the NPCSC along with the revised Law:

After the Session closed this afternoon, the NPCSC held a press conference on the revised Law, featuring officials with the Ministry of Land and Resources. You can access the transcript of the press conference here. Reuters reported on both the revision and the press conference here.

Second, the NPCSC passed three bills regarding the elections of delegates to the next NPC, which will first convene in March 2018.

The first document allocated the 3,000 seats in the 13th NPC amongst the various provincial-level administrative divisions (including Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). 255 of the 3,000 seats are reserved for the next Party and State leadership in Beijing due to be chosen this fall. As we previously wrote, the number of seats each electoral unit is allocated remains the same as that for the current NPC.

The second document is a plan for allocating the 360 (out of 3,000) seats reserved for ethnic minorities among the various provincial-level administrative divisions (this time excluding Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) and the PLA. Pursuant to a March 2017 NPC decision, this plan allocates at least one seat to each ethnic minority in China, of which there are 55. The allocation made by this plan is identical to the one for the current NPC as well.

The last document is a plan for electing Taiwanese delegates to the 13th NPC from the Taiwanese currently residing on the mainland. According to the statistics cited by the plan, as of 2016 there were close to 47,000 Taiwanese on the mainland. From them 122 will be selected by December 2017 to convene a consultative election conference, which will be held in January 2018 in Beijing. The conference will elect 13 delegates to represent Taiwan in the next NPC.

The NPCSC also released the accompanying explanations of these three documents here, here, and here.

Renewal of the People’s Assessor System Reform Pilots

As we mentioned in a prior post, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) asked the NPCSC to extend the period within which to carry out reform of the people’s assessor system. Without suspense, the NPCSC today granted the SPC’s request and renewed the reform pilots by another year to expire in May 2018.

In an explanation, the SPC cited the following three main difficulties to justify its extension request, echoing the points made in its midterm report on the reform pilots (which we covered here and here):

  1. The determination of facts cannot be effectively separated from the consideration of law;
  2. It is rather difficult and not entirely reasonable to comprehensively implement random selection of people’s assessors;
  3. The mechanisms for hearing cases in “big panels” remain to be improved.

In its decision granting the SPC’s request, the NPCSC orders the SPC to submit a report on situations of the reform upon expiration of the pilot period.

Personnel Decisions

The NPCSC today confirmed Hu Zejun as the new Chief Auditor of the National Auditing Office, an agency under the State Council that directly answers to the Premier. According to Caixin, Hu is the first female Chief Auditor in the agency’s 34-year history. She was previously the Executive Vice Chief Procurator of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, a position from which she was simultaneously removed this afternoon.

In an unexpected turn of events (or not, if you haven’t read this report by the South China Morning Post), Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ally, Xia Baolong, former Party secretary of Zhejiang Province, was appointed a vice chairman of the NPC Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee. It looks like he won’t, as rumored, succeed Meng Jianzhu as head of the powerful Central Political-Legal Committee any time soon—or ever.

It’s in fact quite common for former provincial Party secretaries to assume vice chairmanships at NPC special committees. Just this afternoon, the NPCSC confirmed four other ex-provincial Party chiefs as vice chairmen on three different NPC special committees.

What to Expect in the Coming Days

The NPCSC reviewed three other draft laws during the just-concluded session:

  1. Draft revision of the Securities Law,
  2. Draft revision of the Standardization Law, and
  3. Draft Nuclear Safety Law.

We expect the NPCSC to solicit public opinions on all three drafts either tomorrow (Friday, April 28) or early next week. When it does, we’ll announce the news here on this Blog as soon as possible. When the draft revision of the Standardization Law is released, we’ll publish a summary of it as well.

NPCSC Chairman Zhang Dejiang indicated in a speech today that the Council of Chairmen had officially distributed the 2017 legislative and supervisory plans (which were already approved two weeks earlier) after making further adjustments. We expect the two documents to soon be publicly released.


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