If you were looking to read another case in which the Legislative Affairs Commission (LAC) of the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) reviewed the legality or constitutionality of a regulation or a judicial interpretation, you will be disappointed. But in this new installment of our Recording & Review series, we will introduce a new development in the NPCSC’s review of sub-statutory legal documents that is no less important than any substantive action by the NPCSC.
On December 4, the NPCSC officially launched a new online platform for citizens, legal persons, and other organizations to submit requests for review. Previously, they must mail their suggestions to the LAC’s Office for Recording and Reviewing Regulations [法规备案审查室]. We tested the new platform and felt that it is relatively easy to use, though not without several significant limitations. Below we will offer a brief tour of the platform (with screenshots), after a quick introduction of the review process.
As we have previously written in much more detail, the NPCSC may review the legality or constitutionality of the following six types of legal documents (which must first be filed with the NPCSC within 30 days of promulgation):
- administrative regulations [行政法规];
- local regulations [地方性法规];
- autonomous regulations [自治条例];
- separate regulations [单行条例];
- special economic zone (SEZ) regulations [经济特区法规]; and
- judicial interpretations [司法解释].
Such review is ordinarily carried out by the LAC. It can do so on its own initiative; in fact, it has reviewed every judicial interpretation filed since 2006, and every administrative regulation filed since 2010. The LAC may also review those documents upon the request of third parties, including, for our purposes here, private citizens and organizations. The number of such requests has surged during the last two years, reaching 1229 in 2018, from fewer than 100 annually from 2012 to 2016.
If the LAC finds a document inconsistent with a statute or the Constitution, it will inform the enacting authority (e.g., the Supreme People’s Court or a local legislature) of its view and request the latter to amend the document at issue. The enacting authority ordinarily will comply with the LAC’s request. If not, the LAC has other statutory tools at its disposal, including recommending that the NPCSC annul the document in question.
With that information in mind, let’s take a look at the new online platform.
To submit a request for review, you must first locate the legal document you have found problematic. The platform offers a few ways you could search for that document (see Fig. 1). You could do so by selecting whether it is an administrative regulation; a local, autonomous, separate, or SEZ regulation (these are grouped together); or a judicial interpretation. You could opt to view all the documents that were filed within a selected period. And you could search for the document you want by its title, its enacting authority, or its filing authority (the latter two are practically the same). Finally, you could combine two or more of these criteria to narrow your search. But if for whatever reason you cannot find that document, you must still mail your request to the Office for Recording and Reviewing Regulations.
In the example below (Fig. 2), we selected “judicial interpretations” in the first dropdown menu to view all the judicial interpretations that have been sent for recording. The documents are ordered reverse chronologically according to their dates of promulgation. One of the main shortcomings of this platform quickly becomes obvious: it is not up to date. To date, the Supreme People’s Court (alone or jointly with the Supreme People’s Procuratorate) has promulgated nine more judicial interpretations since April 29, 2019—the latest date shown on the screenshot. And all but one of these newer interpretations should have been filed with the NPCSC already. Yet they did not show up on the list.
Then we randomly clicked on the Court’s interpretation on commutation and parole cases and were directed the following page (Fig. 3). Here, you could download the authoritative text of the interpretation (or whatever document you are viewing), along with any other related documents the enacting authority has filed with the NPCSC.
Back to the previous page, we clicked on the “submitting suggestion for review” [提出审查建议] icon and were asked to register first (see Fig. 4). As far as individuals are concerned, the platform is currently open to mainland Chinese citizens only, for it asks for the user’s national ID number. You will also need a mainland Chinese mobile number to receive a verification code. Even if you have both, you can only register during the daily 8 a.m.–6 p.m. window (China Standard Time).
After successful registration, we clicked on the submission icon again and arrived at the following comments-submitting page (Fig. 5). The grey text in the comments box asks you to identify the specific provisions of the document you are requesting LAC review, the name and provisions of the statute or Constitution you think the document violates, as well as your reasoning. If your comment exceeds 1,000 characters, you will be asked to upload it as a file.
We then “saved” [保存] our blank comment and were directed to the following list (Fig. 6). It appears that a user’s suggestions for review will be grouped into those “pending submission,” “submitted,” “rejected,” and “replied.” On this page, you can submit, edit, or delete comments either one by one or in bulk, and can also choose to submit a new request (by going back to the very first page).
We might submit an actual request for review in the coming months and report back with our experience with the whole process. We will also continue to note any new development with this platform as (hopefully) more and more Chinese citizens become aware and make use of it.