NPCSC Session Watch: Encryption, Civil Code, Biosecurity, Child Protection & State Supervision Commission Rulemaking

The Council of Chairpersons decided on Monday (October 14) to convene the 14th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) from October 21 to 26. The NPCSC will consider eight legislative bills plus three draft decisions on important legal issues during the upcoming six-day session. A quick rundown follows.

Legislative Bills

The draft Encryption Law [密码法] returns for a second—and probably final—review. It was open for public comments during a rare 60-day period (the normal length is 30 days), which could signal that it is being expedited, much like the Foreign Investment Law [外商投资法]. The draft revision to the Forest Law [森林法] and the draft Community Corrections Law [社区矫正法] also return for a second review. They may be approved at the upcoming session, although we would not rule out the possibility of a third and final review. As usual, we will have our summaries of these bills after they are approved.

The draft Civil Code Part on Marriage and Family [民法典婚姻家庭编] is back for a third round of deliberations. Despite improvements from earlier versions, scholars still deem the latest draft of this Part lacking in several aspects. For instance, Sun Xianzhong, a member of the NPC Constitution and Law Committee, penned an article in the People’s Congress magazine that calls for recognizing nonmarital cohabitation and refining the rules on marital debts. The NPCSC is expected to consider for the first time a complete draft Civil Code at its next regular session in December.

Next, new bills.

The NPC Environmental Protection and Resource Conservation Committee submitted for deliberation a draft Biosecurity Law [生物安全法]. This Law was one of the lowest-priority projects in the 13th NPCSC’s five-year legislative plan, but has apparently been prioritized after a Chinese scientist created the world’s first gene-edited babies, facing widespread criticism. Li Zhanshu, the NPCSC Chairman, chaired a legislative symposium on the Law in July, noting that the Party “attaches great importance to biosecurity issues” and emphasizing that the law must “guide” human biotechnology “to the correct path.” We expect this Law to pass after two or three reviews.

The NPC Social Development Affairs Committee submitted for review draft revisions to the Minors Protection Law [未成年人保护法] and the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Law [预防未成年人犯罪法]. Both are top-priority projects in the 13th NPCSC’s legislative plan. The Committee said in February that the Minors Protection Law would undergo “a major overhaul, with its number of articles doubled after the revision.” The draft is said to have addressed issues such as school bullying. We expect the revisions to pass after three reviews.

Finally, the State Council submitted a draft revision to the Archives Law [档案法], after having approved it on October 8. The draft revision is said to specify the responsibility for archive management of various types of entities, provide for digitization of archives, recognize the legal force of electronic archives, and allow for greater access to archives, among other provisions. The revision may pass after two reviews.

Decisions

The NPCSC will also consider draft decisions on three separate legal issues at its upcoming session.

First, the Council of Chairpersons submitted a draft decision that would grant the State Supervision Commission (SSC) [国家监察委员会] authority to formulate so-called “Supervisory Regulations” [监察法规]. It is unclear if the decision would also spell out the procedures the SCC must follow in rulemaking or specify the place those Supervisory Regulations would occupy in the hierarchy of Chinese sources of law.

Second, the State Council submitted a request to suspend the operation of certain provisions of law in some or all of China’s 18 free trade zones. The NPCSC has previously approved similar requests in August 2013 and December 2014 to suspend government review of certain business activities or decisions. The State Council’s new request likely seeks to cut red tapes as well. Once the State Council deems it desirable to roll out the reforms nationwide, it would submit amendments to the relevant laws by the time the NPCSC’s authorization expires (likely in two or three years).

Third, the State Council also submitted a draft decision that would grant Macau jurisdiction over the Macau Port Area of the new Hengqin Port that is located on the Macau-mainland border but geographically entirely in the mainland (specifically in the Hengqin New Area of Zhuhai, Guangdong). (The Port is scheduled to commence operation by the 20th anniversary of Macau’s handover this December.) The NPCSC has previously on two occasions made similar jurisdictional grant to Macau and Hong Kong concerning part of mainland territory. In 2006, the NPCSC granted Hong Kong jurisdiction over the Hong Kong Port Area of the Shenzhen Bay Port on the Hong Kong-mainland border, but located geographically in Shenzhen, Guangdong. Then in 2009, the NPCSC granted Macau jurisdiction over the University of Macau’s new campus that is located entirely in Zhuhai, Guangdong. Under both prior decisions, the relevant special administrative region would lease the land concerned from the corresponding mainland city and exercise sole jurisdiction over it. We expect the draft Hengqin Port decision to contain similar provisions.

We expect all three decisions to pass next week.


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