NPCSC Session Watch: Public Health, Coast Guard, Legal Aid, Wetlands Protection, Education & Workplace Safety

The Council of Chairpersons decided on Tuesday, January 12 to convene the 25th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) from January 20 to 22. The NPCSC used to hold regular bimonthly sessions in even-numbered months, but it seems to have abandoned that routine, after the Communist Party’s recent Five-Year Plan on Building the Rule of Law in China directed the standing committees of people’s congresses to meet more frequently. Ten legislative bills are on the upcoming NPCSC session’s tentative agenda. A quick rundown follows.

Returning Bills

Three bills will return for their third—and most likely final—round of review: the draft revision to the Animal Epidemic Prevision Law [动物防疫法], the draft revision to the Administrative Penalties Law [行政处罚法], and the draft Coast Guard Law [海警法]. We will summarize their main provisions in our post-session recap.

New Bills

Seven new bills have been submitted to the upcoming NPCSC session for deliberation.

First, the NPC Supervisory and Judicial Affairs Committee submitted a draft Legal Aid Law [法律援助法]. China’s legal aid system is currently governed by the State Council’s Legal Aid Regulations [法律援助条例] adopted in 2003. In 2014, the Communist Party vowed to “improve the legal aid system” in its Fourth Plenum Decision and released a policy document on this subject in 2015, focusing on expanding the scope of legal aid and improving its quality.

Second, the NPC Education, Science, Culture, and Public Health Committee submitted a draft revision to the Licensed Physicians Law [执业医师法], a Category I project in the NPCSC’s special legislative plan on public health. According to a 2020 report by the Chairperson of the National Health Commission to the NPCSC, the draft revision will codify some existing policy measures and will pay special attention to issues such as medical education, licensing and management of physicians, rural physicians recruitment, as well as protection of physicians’ and patients’ rights and interests.

Third, the NPC Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee submitted a draft Wetlands Protection Law [湿地保护法]. This bill is a rare Category III (i.e., least ready) project in the NPCSC’s five-year legislative plan that has been submitted for review. It will likely follow the general requirements laid down in the Party’s 2015 Overall Plan for Reforming the Ecological Civilization System and incorporate provisions from the current Provisions on the Administration of Wetlands Protection [湿地保护管理规定] enacted by the (now defunct) State Forestry Administration.

Fourth, two bills on education are submitted for review: a draft Family Education Law [家庭教育法] by the NPC Social Development Affairs Committee, and a draft amendment to the Education Law [教育法] by the State Council. According to a Legal Daily report, the draft Family Education Law will likely supplement the recently revised Minors Protection Law [未成年人保护法], delineate the respective roles of the government, schools, and parents with respect to family education, and set forth the parents and other guardians’ responsibilities in educating the children in their care. As for the draft Education Law amendment, it will likely codify the Party’s latest policies on education, including those reflected in Xi Jinping’s speech at the 2018 National Education Conference.

Fifth, the State Council also submitted a draft amendment to the Workplace Safety Law [安全生产法] (it solicitated public comments on a previous draft in 2017). According to the readout of the State Council meeting that approved the new draft, the amendment would improve mechanisms to control and prevent workplace safety risks, clarify the roles of the relevant government authorities, and increase the penalties for workplace safety violations.

The draft amendment to the Education Law may pass after two or three reviews, whereas the other five bills are expected to pass after three reviews.

Finally, the Supreme People’s Court submitted for review a decision to establish a Beijing Financial Court. We expect this new specialized court to resemble the Shanghai Financial Court established in 2018 and to function as an intermediate-level court and have jurisdiction over finance-related civil, commercial, and administrative cases. The decision is expected to pass next week.

At next week’s session, the NPCSC will also hear its Legislative Affairs Commission’s  annual report on its efforts to record and review sub-statutory legislation in 2020. In light of the interesting new directives on recording-and-review and constitutional review in the Party’s recent Rule of Law Plan, we will be watching this year’s report very closely.

Reuters and several Hong Kong media outlets recently reported that the Central Government was contemplating changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system to diminish or eliminate the pan-democrats’ influence in both the Legislative Council and the Election Committee (which elects Hong Kong’s Chief Executive). While today’s readout of the Council of Chairpersons’ meeting did not reveal such a bill, the NPCSC could still review one next week, so stay tuned.

Edited by Changhao Wei

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