NPCSC Session Watch: Marriage, Vaccine, Community Corrections, Encryption & Solid Waste (UPDATED)

UPDATE (June 27, 2019): The agenda of this month’s NPCSC session shows that the legislature is reviewing a draft decision that would grant special amnesty [特赦] to some prisoners ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic this October. State media has not reported on the details of the amnesty; we thus do not know which prisoners would be eligible or how many prisoners are estimated to be released. We do expect the decision to pass this Saturday and be released on the same day.

The Council of Chairpersons decided on Monday (June 17) to convene the 11th session of the 13th NPC Standing (NPCSC) from June 25 to 29. Per the Council’s recommendation, the session will consider eight legislative bills. A quick rundown follows.

As usual, we start with returning bills.

First, the draft Vaccine Administration Law [疫苗管理法] returns for its third—and most likely final—review. Drafted and introduced in the immediate aftermath of a major vaccine scandal last summer, the Law seeks to tighten regulation of vaccine “development, manufacture, circulation, and inoculation.” Because the Law will likely pass next week, we will reserve further discussion of its contents for our recap of the session.

Second, the draft amendment to the Land Management Law [土地管理法] (and the corresponding conforming amendment to the Urban Real Estate Administration Law [城市房地产管理法]) return for their second review. The amendments may pass at the upcoming session, but we won’t rule out the possibility of a third and final review.

Third, the draft Civil Code Part on Marriage and Family [婚姻家庭编] and Part on Inheritance [继承编] also return for a second round of deliberations. Unlike other subdivisions of the proposed Civil Code, these two parts have been criticized by practitioners, scholars, and activists alike. For instance, in China Law Review’s February special issue on the draft Code, one law professor called the Part on Inheritance “conservative and lacking in reform,” while another law professor criticized the Part on Marriage and Family for “staying in the era of inheriting Soviet law” and “falling far short of the standard for an iconic 21st-century civil code.” Such controversy explains why the two are the last among the Code’s six parts to undergo another review.

We will closely watch whether the two parts have been substantially revised as many commenters have urged. In particular, we are eager to see whether last year’s widespread social media campaign asking the NPC to legalize same-sex marriage has had any impact on the draft. The campaign’s organizer posted on WeChat an article-by-article instruction for suggesting changes to the first draft of the Part on Marriage and Family. This post has been reposted on countless other platforms and has so far received more than 100,000 views on WeChat alone. It is conceivable that the campaign contributed to a large portion of the whopping 440,491 comments on the draft Code (including all six separate parts) last fall.

Moving on to new bills.

The NPC Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee submitted a draft revision to the Forest Law [森林法]. This draft appears to be an updated version of the public-consultation draft released by the now-defunct State Forestry Administration in September 2016. (The Committee has taken over the drafting responsibility under the 13th NPCSC’s five-year legislative plan.) Because the Administration very helpfully did not release an explanation of the draft revision, we cannot easily tell which parts of the Law have been changed and thus have no substantive thing to say at this point.

Lastly, the State Council submitted three new bills:

Three State Council agencies have previously solicited comments on former drafts of all three bills at various points during last several years; the latter two are also available in English. Click on the links above to read the drafts and English translations.

We will have more to say about these three bills in the future. For now, we will just point out that new provisions on waste sorting appear to feature prominently in the draft revision to the solid waste law. That issue apparently ranks high on Xi Jinping’s agenda, for he gave “important instructions” on waste sorting just earlier this month.

All three bills may pass after two rounds of deliberations, though we think three rounds are more likely for the first two.

(In other (non-)news, the NPCSC still has not released its 2019 legislative and oversight plans, which is quite unusual.)

Thanks to Taige Hu for research assistance.

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