NPC Standing Committee Schedules Major Legislation for 2017

The 12th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) today finally released its much-anticipated legislative and supervisory plans for 2017. Here we will focus on the legislative plan, leaving the supervisory plan for another blog post. According to the 2017 legislative plan, a total of 23 legislative projects are tentatively scheduled (as the plan is subject to change) for the remaining four NPCSC sessions this year, with dozens more listed as preparatory projects. Among them, there is certainly no lack of blockbuster legislation, whether relating to China’s judicial reform, anti-corruption drive, environmental protection, or economic and social development in general.

Quick Introduction

The NPCSC’s 2017 legislative plan can be roughly divided into two parts: The first contains several lists of legislative projects slated for consideration this year, whereas the second part, teeming with bureaucratic language, focuses on improving the quality of legislation. Below, more attention will be given to the first part of the plan.

The legislative plan lists the legislative bills carried over from 2016 and those to be submitted to the NPCSC in 2017 separately. But in the following section we will combine the two lists and discuss the projects planned for each of the NPCSC’s sessions in 2017 in turn.

Projects for Continued and Initial Deliberation

February (26th Session), March (12th NPC’s 5th Session) & April (27th Session)

These three sessions—one NPC’s and two NPCSC’s—have already taken place. Because the legislative plan was first drafted in December 2016, the bills submitted to those sessions are still listed. They are:

  • February: Red Cross Society Law (Revision)*;
  • March: General Provisions of the Civil Law*;
  • April: Securities Law (Revision), Surveying and Mapping Law (Revision)*, Nuclear Safety Law, and Standardization Law (Revision).

Bills marked with an asterisk (*) have been approved. For more details, please refer to our previous coverage of those sessions.

June (28th Session)

Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Promotion Law (Revision)
Carried over from 2016, the bill was submitted and reviewed once in October 2016. Its first draft is available here.

National Intelligence Law
Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law (Revision)

These two bills were carried over from 2016 as well, but were submitted and reviewed once in December 2016. The draft revision of the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law can be found here, but the draft National Intelligence Law was not released for public comments, contrary to ordinary practice, underscoring the sensitive nature of its subject.

State Supervision Law (to replace the Administrative Supervision Law)
A top priority project in the 12th NPCSC’s five-year legislative plan (FYLP), this law, once passed, will arguably be the most significant legal outcome of the multi-year anti-corruption campaign launched after Xi Jinping rose to power five years ago. It seeks to overhaul the existing graft-busting system by combining the anti-corruption agencies at each level (national, provincial, and so forth) into a single supervision commission. Programs to pilot the reform, authorized by the NPCSC in December 2016, are currently being carried out in three provinces: Beijing, Zhejiang, and Shanxi. (We covered the NPCSC’s authorization decision in detail here.) It has been reported that the supervisions commissions in Shanxi have already taken action against officials accused of corruption.

Specialized Farmers Cooperatives Law (Revision)
The NPC Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee is in charge of drafting and submitting this bill, which is a second-tier priority (or Category II) project in the 12th NPCSC FYLP.

Public Libraries Law
The State Council approved this bill on April 19, 2017, and has formally submitted it to the NPCSC. The law is a top-priority (or Category I) project in the 12th NPCSC FYLP.

Soil Pollution Prevention and Control Law
Also a Category I project in the 12th NPCSC FYLP, this law is being drafted and will be submitted by the NPC Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee. Once passed, it will become China’s first comprehensive national law dealing with soil pollution—the current situation of which is not cause for optimism, to say the least.

National Anthem Law
This project is one of the few projects (like the National Intelligence Law) that were not planned by the 12th NPCSC FYLP. China’s national anthem, the “March of the Volunteers,” was granted constitutional status by the 2004 Constitutional Amendment. At this moment, only a Central Government policy document regulates the playing and singing of the national anthem, much unlike the national flag and emblem, which, though covered by the same chapter of the Constitution, are the subjects of two separate national laws: the National Flag Law and the National Emblem Law. It is worth noting that these two laws (along with other ten) apply to Hong Kong and Macau, and we see no reason why the future National Anthem Law will not—the NPCSC will simply need to add the law to Annexes III to the two regions’ Basic Laws.

August (29th Session)

E-Commerce Law
This bill was first submitted and reviewed once by the NPCSC in December 2016. The draft is available here.

People’s Courts Organic Law (Revision)
People’s Procuratorates Organic Law (Revision)
Perhaps the two most anticipated and closely watched items on the NPCSC’s agenda this year, these two bills will no doubt be the culmination of the current round of judicial reform. Both enacted in 1979, the two laws have not undergone substantial revision ever since and are therefore utterly outdated. We expect that there will be ample opportunity to comment on these two bills once they are formally submitted to the NPCSC.

Tobacco Leaf Tax Law
(Somehow) not listed in the 12th NPCSC FYLP along with the seven (!) tax law projects contained therein, this law is being drafted by the State Administration of Taxation and the Ministry of Finance and was previously released for public comments last October. It is part of China’s plan to “upgrade” all tax regulations (税收条例) to national laws by 2020.

October (30th Session)

Vessel Tonnage Tax Law
Also part of the plan to upgrade tax regulations, this draft law was released for public comments by the Ministry of Finance in October 2016 as well. It is a top priority project in the 12th NPCSC FYLP.

International Criminal Justice Assistance Law
According to its title and media reports, this law is intended as a comprehensive statute covering all areas of international criminal justice assistance, including the mutual recognition and enforcement of criminal judgments. But official discourse labels it an anti-corruption law, likely designed specifically to hunt fugitive corrupt officials overseas, a task currently undertaken by the Community Party’s graft-busting body. The law is being drafted by the Ministry of Justice and will be submitted to the NPCSC by the NPC Foreign Affairs Committee.

December (31st Session)

Community Correction Law
Community correction (社区矫正) is a type of punishment imposed on certain classes of convicts, including those sentenced to controlled release (管制) or given a suspended sentence. It was first introduced into the Criminal Law by the 2011 Criminal Law Amendment, which only includes broad provisions on the use of community correction. A draft of this law, released last December for public comments, expands upon those provisions by providing for procedures for implementing community corrections and other related matters.

Basic Health Care Law (基本医疗卫生法)
A top priority project in the 12th NPCSC FYLP, this law, once passed, will become the fundamental legislation underlying China’s medical and healthcare system. It was assigned to the NPC Education, Science, Culture, and Public Health Committee for drafting and submission. The Committee has reportedly changed the law’s title to Health Care and Health Promotion Law (医疗卫生与健康促进法), but the change was not reflected in the legislative plan.

Likelihood of Being on Schedule

As detailed as it is, the 2017 legislative plan is after all just a plan—it is subject to change and will certainly be adjusted according to actual circumstances. That said, we think it will still be a decent prediction of the NPCSC’s legislative agenda for the rest of 2017. The following is some statistics from the previous seven publicly available NPCSC annual legislative plans (for 2007–2010 and 2014­­–2016) to help our readers gauge the “on-schedule” (defined as submitted within the target year, regardless of the session) rate of the projects in this year’s plan:

  1. The average on-schedule rate of all the projects contained in the seven older plans is 78.0%;
  2. For projects carried over from the previous year, the rate is 89.4%;
  3. For newly submitted projects each year, the rate is 70.6%;
  4. As a general rule, the closer to year end a project is scheduled, the less likely it will be completed on schedule.

Preparatory and Research Projects

Generally, preparatory and research projects are not considered by the NPCSC within the target year (though exceptions do occur), we therefore will not discuss them in the same level of details as we did above.

Notes: SPC Supreme People’s Court; SPP Supreme People’s Procuratorate; SC State Council; CMC Central Military Commission; and NPC Sp. C one of the nine NPC special committees (see here for more details). All solicitations of public comments noted below were by the State Council (or a department thereunder).

# Projects In 12th NPCSC FYLP?
(If yes, which Category?)
Drafting Bodies Notes
Judges Law
Procurators Law
Yes – I SPC
Candidates for submission this year
3 Rural Land Contract Law NPC Sp. C
4 Patent Law SC Comments solicited
5 Copyright Law SC Comments solicited
6 Civil Air Defense Law SC & CMC
7 Land Management Law SC First deliberation ended in 2014
8 Tax Collection Administration Law SC
9 Vocational Education Law SC
10 Forestry Law SC Comments solicited
11 Mine Safety Law SC
12 Maritime Traffic Safety Law Yes – II SC Comments solicited
13 Officers in Active Duty Law SC & CMC Likely on hold till military reform ends
14 Personal Income Tax Law No Likely SC
15 Metrology Law Unknown
New Laws
1 Land Borders Law Yes – I NPC Sp. C
2 Real Estate Tax Law SC & NPCSC Budgetary Affairs Commission Will not be considered by the 12th NPCSC
3 Tariff Law SC
4 Farmland Occupancy Tax Law SC Comments solicited
5 Atomic Energy Law SC
6 Criminal Victims Relief Law Yes – II Council of Chairmen
7 Basic Ocean Law SC
8 Futures Law NPC Sp. C

The 2017 legislative plan also lists legislation on the following areas for further research and debate:

  • Petitioning (信访);
  • Comprehensive management of public security (社会治安综合治理). The NPC Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee last year recommended that a Law on Comprehensive Management of Public Security be included the NPCSC’s FYLP “at the right time.” It also indicated that the Central Political-Legal Committee has begun drafting the law.
  • Rural finance (农村金融). The NPC Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee reported to the NPCSC in 2015 that it was leading the drafting of a Rural Finance Law, which was going “smoothly.” It also mentioned that the law is among the measures to implement the Party’s 2014 Fourth Plenum Decision.

Guiding Principles for NPCSC’s Legislative Work in 2017

The second part of the 2017 legislative plan contains several paragraphs of (oftentimes vague) measures for “improving the quality of legislation” and “advancing scientific and democratic lawmaking.”

Some of them have been repeated year after year, such as:

  1. Reporting to the Party Central Committee when draft legislation involve adjusting major systems or policies;
  2. Actively inviting NPC delegates (most of whom are not NPCSC members) to participate in the legislative process;
  3. Strengthening efforts to interpret laws;
  4. Doing well the job of publicizing the NPCSC’s legislative work;
  5. Advancing the construction of legislative workforces.

Still, the 2017 legislative plan’s guiding principles contain a few new propositions worth mentioning.

  1. On soliciting public opinions on draft legislation, the plan vows to “perfect mechanisms for accepting and giving feedback on public opinions.” We interpret this as the NPCSC’s action to finally start implementing a clause in the 2015 amendment to the Legislation Law that requires the NPCSC to report to the public the opinions it receives on pending legislation.
  2. The legislative plan requires relevant departments to start preparatory work for compiling the 13th NPCSC’s five-year legislative plan, which we expect to be released in late 2018.
  3. With respect to its duty to review legal documents filed by other state organs (e.g., judicial interpretations and administrative regulations) for constitutional and statutory violations, the NPCSC will “pay high attention to” (高度重视) suggestions put forward by various public and private entities (including citizens) for reviewing those documents, and will “intensify efforts” to correct those that violate the Constitution or national laws. Previous legislative plans lack such call for “high attention” to outside proposals. However, whether the change in wording will translate to a change in practice awaits to be seen.
  4. Regarding providing guidance to local legislatures, the legislative plan states that the NPCSC plans to hold a special conference on the legislative work of sub-districted cities at an appropriate time. It also mentions that the NPCSC plans to train these cities’ legislators on the entire legislative process, including project initiation, drafting, deliberation, and filing and review. The majority of sub-districted cities have only been granted the authority (subject to various limitations) to enact local regulations in 2015. We have previously written about these cities’ new legislative authorities and the regulations enacted thereunder here and here. We found that many municipal people’s congresses have yet to adapt to their new roles as legislatures. Training is sorely needed.

Analysis of the NPCSC’s 2017 supervisory plan will come in a later blog post.

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