28th Session Watch Pt. 2: NPCSC Passes New Intelligence Law, Amends Clean Water Law, and Empowers Procuratorates to File Public Interest Lawsuits (UPDATED)

(Update: June 29, 2017): The NPCSC released full texts of the amended Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law, Administrative Litigation Law, and Civil Procedure Law.

(Update: June 28, 2017): China Law Translate has translated the National Intelligence Law.

The NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) concluded its bimonthly session this afternoon with (among other actions taken) the passage of three bills: a new National Intelligence Law, an amendment to the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law, as well as amendments to two procedural laws to formally grant the procuratorates (or prosecutor’s offices) nationwide authority to initiate public interest litigation.

The National Intelligence Law, due to take effect tomorrow (June 28), is yet another national security legislation passed by the current NPCSC.  The Law was adopted after two deliberations—a relatively expedited process that is seldomly used on new laws. This underlines the haste with which authorities wished to proceed, as well as the unsophistication of the Law (which likely made consensus-building relatively easy). Indeed, the Law contains only 32 vaguely worded articles on a topic as important and complex as intelligence work.

For now, the Law is only available in Chinese (see link above). The NPCSC has also released two reports by the NPC Law Committee on the changes it made to earlier drafts of the Law.

Environmental protection is another highlight of this NPCSC’s legislative agenda. Today, it made another move in this area by adopting a (fairly extensive) amendment to the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law. An NPC official said at a press conference earlier today that the amendment focuses on: (1) establishing a “river chief system” (河长制)—which makes local government heads or Communist Party chiefs responsible for managing and protecting the aquatic bodies within their respective jurisdictions; (2) water pollution from agriculture and in rural areas; and (3) drinking water protection. But based on a cursory reading of the amendment, we noticed that it has made substantial changes to other parts of the Law as well.

The amendment will take effect on January 1, 2018; the Law was last revised in 2008. The NPCSC has yet to release full text of the amended Law. And here are the NPC Law Committee’s two reports on revising previous versions of the amendment.

That brings us to amendments to the Administrative Litigation Law and the Civil Procedure Law—proposed by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate to formally grant China’s procuratorates authority to initiate public interest litigation. Since July 1, 2015, there have been pilot programs to allow procuratorates in select regions to do so, as authorized by the NPCSC for a period of two years. We have previously written about those reform pilots and won’t repeat the information here.

The amendments, however, didn’t codify any procedure for the novel process now in use in the pilot regions. They, in fact, only add to each law a short paragraph that does (almost) nothing more than declaring that the procuratorates have the power to file public interest lawsuits.

The procuratorates’ authority to file civil public interest lawsuits is for now limited to the areas of environmental, ecological, and resources protection plus food and drug safety. And their authority to initiate administrative public interest litigation is restricted to the same two areas, in addition to state-owned assets protection and transfer of right to use state-owned land. (The pilot programs did not previously extend the procuratorates’ authority to file administrative public interest lawsuits to food and drug safety violations.) For an explanation of the distinction between civil and administrative public interest litigation, please refer to the post linked above.

The Administrative Litigation Law amendment does, however, require the procuratorates to urge relevant administrative agencies to fulfill their duties before filing lawsuits—the so-called “pre-litigation procedures” followed by the pilot programs.

The amendments will come into force on July 1, 2017, the two-year anniversary and expiry date of the NPCSC’s authorization. Here is the NPC Law Committee’s report on the changes made to a previous draft of the amendments.

In the coming days, we expect the NPCSC to solicit public opinions on the following draft laws it just reviewed:

  • Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Promotion Law (2nd Draft Revision)
  • Specialized Farmers’ Cooperatives Law (Draft Revision)
  • Supervision Law
  • Public Libraries Law
  • Soil Pollution Prevention and Control Law
  • National Anthem Law

We intend to publish summaries of the draft National Anthem Law and Supervision Law after they are released.

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