The 12th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) concluded its last session on Saturday. First, it revised its Decision on Implementing the Constitutional Oath System (English translation here), adopted in mid-2015. It made threefold changes to the original Decision: (1) The oath is slightly modified based on President Xi Jinping’s report to the Party’s 19th Congress; (2) language relating to supervision commissions is inserted where appropriate; and (3) the national anthem is required to be played and sung at oath-taking ceremonies per the National Anthem Law enacted last year. We have translated the revised Decision here.
Next, the NPCSC renewed for two years its decision authorizing the State Council to reform the initial public offering (IPO) system to be registration-based as opposed to approval-based. The authorization was originally intended only as a stopgap measure while the NPCSC was deliberating comprehensive revisions to the Securities Law. But this effort has been delayed after China’s stock market crashed in summer 2015. And it appears from the explanation submitted by the China Securities Regulatory Commission that it has yet to actually start the registration-based IPO system reform. It had only taken some preparatory actions and has not formulated a specific plan to implement the reform. The reform authorization now expires on February 29, 2020.
Third, the NPCSC approved the results of elections of the delegates to the 13th NPC, which will first meet on March 5. The full list of the 2980 delegates is here (PDF) and includes only their genders and ethnicities besides their names and electoral units. Detailed information on the delegates is expected to be released after the NPC session concludes. The NPCSC Delegates Credentials Committee reported the following statistics in its report:
- 742 (24.9%) delegates are female, up from 23.4% in the 12th NPC (see trend since 1988 in chart below);
- 438 (14.7%) delegates are ethnic minorities, up from 13.69% in the 12th NPC and 2.7 percentage points higher than the proportion required by the guideline adopted by the NPC in March 2017 (“Guideline”; discussed here);
- Party and government cadres take up 1011 (33.93%) seats, down from 34.88% in the 12th NPC;
- “Front-line” workers and farmers are given 468 (15.7%) seats, up 2.28 points. 45 of them are migrant workers, compared to 31 in the 12th NPC;
- Grassroots professionals are given 613 (20.57%) seats, three more than in the 12th NPC;
- Overseas Chinese who have returned to the mainland are given 39 seats, four more than what the Guideline requires;
- 769 (25.81%) delegates have been reelected, down from 34.38% in the 12th NPC.
Lastly, the NPCSC took the rare action of dismissing (撤职) a high-ranking State Council official: YANG Jing, a State Councilor and the Secretary General of the State Council. (The Communist Party’s Central Disciplinary Inspection Commission announced on the same day that it had sanctioned Yang for disciplinary violations.) In doing so, the NPCSC may have overstepped its authority (unless we have missed any relevant constitutional or statutory provision) because (1) it dismissed Yang on its own initiative, and (2) its decision was not promulgated by the President in a presidential order.
The Constitution grants the NPCSC authority to “decide, when the [NPC] is not in session, on the choice of” certain high-ranking State Council officials—that is, to decide to appoint or remove (免职) them—only “upon nomination by the Premier” (Const. art. 67, item 9). Further, these officials must then be formally appointed or removed by the President via presidential orders (Const. art. 80). The Oversight Law grants the standing committees of local people’s congresses—but not the NPCSC—authority to dismiss government officials at the same level (art. 44).
According to our research, the last State Council official dismissed by the NPCSC was YANG Zhong, then-Minister of Forestry, because of lax oversight by his Ministry that eventually led to the 1987 Daxing’anling Wildfire. But his dismissal was recommended by then-Premier ZHAO Ziyang and then formally executed by then-President LI Xiannian via a presidential order. His dismissal was thus effectively a removal made within bounds of the Constitution. The same cannot be said with respect to the dismissal of YANG Jing.
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In other news, the Politburo announced on Saturday that the 19th Party Central Committee will meet for its third plenum February 26–28 to discuss appointments to state offices and a Plan to Deepen Reform of Party and State Institutions (《深化党和国家机构改革的方案》)—both to be approved at the upcoming NPC session. A plan to reform State Council institutions has been on the agenda of each late-February Party plenum (usually a second plenum) since 1993; the last such plan approved in 2013 abolished the Ministry of Railway, among other changes. But the name of this year’s plan (emphasis on state institutions) signals that the changes will be more wide-ranging. Xi Jinping’s report to the 19th Party Congress gives a few clues:
- “[E]stablish regulatory agencies to manage state-owned natural resource assets and monitor natural ecosystems.”
- “[I]mprove the setup of special committees of people’s congresses.”
- “We will adopt a comprehensive approach to the setup of Party and government institutions, and ensure that powers are designated properly and functions and duties are defined clearly both for the institutions themselves and their internal bodies. We will use various types of staffing resources in a coordinated way, develop a sound system of administration, and improve the organic law for state institutions. . . . More decision making power should be given to governments at and below the provincial level, and ways should be explored to merge [local] Party and government bodies with similar functions . . . or for them to work together as one office while keeping separate identities.”
There is also a possibility (however slight) of reform of institutions relating to constitutional review and interpretation, as we speculated (or one could say fantasized) in this post.