UPDATE (July 31, 2020): Today, the Hong Kong Chief Executive officially announced the postponement of the Legislative Council elections to next fall. The central government said in a statement that it would seek a decision by the NPCSC on the one-year vacancy of the Legislative Council after its current term expires on September 30.
We did not wake up today expecting to write this blogpost, yet here we are. On Wednesday, July 29, the Council of Chairpersons decided to convene the 21st session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC)—much to our surprise—from August 8 to 11. For the past three terms, the NPCSC’s regular sessions began only during the last ten days of each month in which it was scheduled to meet (with one exception). And this upcoming session bears all the indications of a regular (August) session: its four-day length, a full batch of bills to review, and the State Council’s mid-year reports on budget implementation and economic development (which are heard in August).
So why did the NPCSC move this session forward? There could be an important (but as-yet unannounced) political event at the end of August that requires that the meeting be moved. The NPCSC could be meeting more frequently in the short term after it planned additional legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Or a reportedly forthcoming request from the Hong Kong Chief Executive could be the cause. Due to the pandemic, the Chief Executive reportedly would postpone the upcoming Legislative Council election on September 6 to next fall. Because the current Legislative Council’s term ends on September 30, the Chief Executive will ask the NPCSC to extend its term by a year, since she herself lacks the power to do so. But it does not seem necessary for the NPCSC to act almost two months in advance, unless some other actions are also being contemplated. And the readout of the Council’s meeting does not indicate that such a term-extension decision is forthcoming, although Hong Kong-related bills have been omitted from the readouts before, most recently twice in June.
The NPCSC will review nine bills at its upcoming session.
Five bills will return for their second reviews.
The draft Urban Maintenance and Construction Tax Law [城市维护建设税法] and the draft Deed Tax Law [契税法] will most likely be approved by the upcoming session. We will briefly summarized them in our post-session recap.
The draft revision to the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law [动物防疫法] could also pass at this session, although we do not rule out the possibility of a third and final review.
The return of the draft amendment to the Copyright Law [著作权法] is unexpected. The NPCSC deliberated the amendment’s first draft in April and subsequently received over 160,000 comments on it (likely due to several highly controversial provisions). It ordinarily takes several more months for such bills to be ready for a second reading. We expect the amendment to pass after at least another review.
Likewise, an third and final review likely awaits the draft revision to the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Law [预防未成年人犯罪法].
The Council of Chairpersons submitted two pairs of new bills.
It submitted draft amendments to the NPC Organic Law [全国人民代表大会组织法] and the NPC Rules of Procedure [全国人民代表大会议事规则]. Both laws were enacted in the 1980s and have never been updated, so we are excited to see what changes are in the works. We also anticipate that the amendments will be adopted by the full NPC in 2021, following another review by its Standing Committee later this year.
The Council also submitted amendments to the National Flag Law [国旗法] and the National Emblem Law [国徽法]. The bills are part of the Communist Party’s May 2018 plan to embody the “core socialist values” in legislation. Specifically, the two Laws will be updated to “strengthen the oversight of the manufacture, sale, and recycling” of national flags and emblems and to foster “respect” for and the “correct use” of those national symbols. Depending on the scope of the amendments, they may pass after one or two reviews.
The NPCSC will also hear for the first time a special work report by the State Supervision Commission on its global anti-corruption efforts.