29th Session Watch Pt. 1: NPCSC to Consider Revisions of Laws Organizing China’s Judicial System

The Council of Chairmen met on August 18 and decided that the 29th—and fourth last—session of the 12th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) will take place from August 28 to September 1. The agenda proposed by the Council of Chairmen is explained below.

Legislations

Nine bills have been submitted to the NPCSC session this month, including five returning ones and four new ones.

Returning bills

The draft Nuclear Safety Law (核安全法) and the draft revision of the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Promotion Law (中小企业促进法) will return for their third—and most likely final—round of deliberation. The upcoming session will almost certainly also approve the draft National Anthem Law (link to our prior coverage), which was first submitted to the previous NPCSC session in June.

Draft revisions of the Law Against Unfair Competition (反不正当竞争法) and the Standardization Law (标准化法) (both links to our prior coverage of content) are both scheduled for their second reading. Depending on whether interested parties have reached a consensus over the two bills—which determines whether the standard three-deliberation procedure or an expedited procedure is followed—the NPCSC may pass them either during this session or at a later one. Our bet is on the former.

New bills

The State Council submitted for deliberation a draft Tobacco Leaf Tax Law (烟叶税法), the second tax bill to come before the 12th NPCSC (after the Environmental Protection Tax Law enacted in December 2016). The tobacco leaf tax is not a new tax, but an existing one that has been collected since 2006 in accordance with State Council regulations. The submission of this draft Law marks another step towards fully implementing the principle of law-based taxation (税收法定原则)—that is, imposing and collecting taxes only pursuant to laws enacted by the NPC or NPCSC. (We plan to soon post a page tracking this process.)

An earlier version of the draft Law was released for public comments in October 2016. We expect to the NPCSC to conduct at least two rounds of deliberation before passing it.

Lastly, the NPC Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee submitted three bills aiming at codifying the latest round of reforms of China’s judicial system: draft revision of the People’s Courts Organic Law (人民法院组织法), draft revision of the People’s Procuratorates Organic Law (人民检察院组织法), and draft amendments to the Judges Law (法官法) and seven other laws.

The two Organic Laws—which provide for the organization, duties and responsibilities, personnel, procedures, and other fundamental aspects of the operation of China’ courts and procuratorates—were both enacted in 1979, shortly after the Cultural Revolution ended. Both laws have undergone several minor amendments during the almost 40 years since, but their main structure and content remain essentially the same as first written in the 1970s.

Efforts to overhaul the two laws started as early as the 1990s when they were scheduled for revision in the 8th NPCSC’s five-year legislative plan. The projects were then repeatedly re-listed in subsequent legislative plans, including the 9th, 10th, and 12th NPCSC’s. In 2013, the NPC Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee began taking charge of the drafting, replacing China’s top court and procuratorate—a change that both signifies the importance of the projects and aimed to avoid further delay in drafting and codification of organizational interests.

As mentioned above, the Committee also submitted, alongside the draft revisions, amendments to eight laws including the Judges Law. We suspect that these amendment will only make limited changes to those laws so that they conform to proposed revisions of the two Organic Laws. The full list of laws to be amended hasn’t been made public yet, but it will definitely also include the Procurators Law (检察官法). (These amendments to the Judges Law and the Procurators Law shouldn’t be confused with amendments to the two laws that are currently being drafted by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, respectively, in accordance with their responsibilities under the 12th NPCSC’s five-year legislative plan.)

We expect the NPCSC to deliberate the draft revisions at no fewer than three sessions before approving them.

Reports

Among the reports the NPCSC will hear at the upcoming session, the following two might interest our readers:

  1. Report by the Supreme People’s Court on intellectual property courts’ work, in accordance with the NPCSC decision establishing those courts; and
  2. Law enforcement inspection report on the Copyright Law.

Full texts of the reports will be released on the day they are presented to the NPCSC. Follow us on Twitter for links to the reports.


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