NPCSC Passes Legislation to Support Rural Revitalization Campaign, Curb Food Waste & Combat Identity Thefts in School Admissions

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The 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) concluded its 28th session on Thursday, April 29. It approved the Rural Revitalization Promotion Law [乡村振兴促进法] and the Anti–Food Waste Law [反食品浪费法], revised the Maritime Traffic Safety Law [海上交通安全法] and a quasi-legislative decision on budget oversight, amended another ten laws, and authorized a set of regulatory pilot programs in China’s free trade zones. Below we take a closer look at some of these bills.

Rural Revitalization Promotion Law

This Law was enacted to offer statutory support for the Communist Party’s “rural revitalization strategy” [乡村振兴战略], as embodied in the Strategic Plan for Rural Revitalization (2018–2022) and other policy documents. The Law has 74 articles in ten chapters and addresses a wide range of issues, including rural industrial development, talent support, cultural promotion, ecological conservation, as well as urban-rural integration. The Law includes few mandatory provisions backed by enforceable mechanisms, however, as evidenced by the lack of a chapter on legal responsibilities. Some scholars have questioned the need for such a “policy law” at all.

The Law does address some of the concerns arising from aggressive rural revitalization efforts. For example, it expressly forbids local governments from merging villages or forcing rural residents to relocate against their will or in violation of legally prescribed process (art. 51). It also bans local governments from requiring rural residents to given up their rights in rural land before allowing them to move to and settle in cities (art. 55, para. 2).

The Law will take effect on June 1, 2021.

Anti–Food Waste Law

The Anti–Food Waste Law is enacted in direct response to a Xi Jinping directive from August 2020, in which he called the issue of food waste “shocking and distressing” and stressed the need for legislation and long-term mechanisms to stop food waste. With only 32 articles, the Law is touted as an exemplary piece of legislation that makes “a small incision” [小切口]—that is, responds to a narrow but pressing issue.

The Law defines “food waste” [食品浪费] as the failure to “make reasonable use of food that is safe to consume in accordance with its functions and purposes” (art. 2). It requires a variety of public and private entities to adopt policies to reduce food waste. Food service providers, in particular, must improve their food procurement, storage, and processing systems to minimize food waste (art. 7). They must also actively remind their customers to avoid wasting food and to order only as necessary as well as offer smaller portions of dishes and meals (id.). Finally, they may reward customers who participate in the “clean plate” campaign, and may also charge those who “cause obvious waste” a waste-processing fee (if they provide clear, public notice of the fee) (id.). Restaurants and bars that “induce or mislead” customers into over-ordering, thereby resulting in “obvious food waste,” will be given a warning and may be fined up to RMB 10,000 (art. 28, para. 2).

Finally, the Law bans “mukbangs,” or binge-eating shows in which the host consumes an excessive amount of food. It forbids radio and television programs as well as online platforms to “produce, publish, or disseminate programs or audiovisual information that promotes” binge-eating (art. 22). Content providers that violate this prohibition will be given a warning and may be fined up to RMB 100,000 or ordered to suspend their businesses (art. 30).

The Law took effect on April 29.

Education Law Amendment

The amendment to the Education Law [教育法] is a limited one and makes two main changes. First, it codifies the Communist Party’s latest policies on education, as reflected in Xi’s speech at the 2018 National Education Conference. For instance, the amendment writes into law the “decisive significance” of education in “elevating the people’s overall quality, promoting the people’s all-around development, enhancing the Chinese nation’s innovative and creative energy, and realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” (art. 4, para. 1 as amended). The amendment also requires education to “inherit and carry forward the fine traditional Chinese culture, revolutionary culture, and advanced socialist culture” (art. 7).

Second, the amendment joins the recent Criminal Law Amendment (XI) [刑法修正案(十一)] in penalizing identity thefts in school admissions. It is now a crime to deprive another of the opportunity to enroll in an institution of higher learning by “stealing or fraudulently using” the latter’s identity (Criminal Law art. 280-2). The Education Law amendment further subjects such conduct in all school admissions to administrative penalties: cancellation of enrollment, prohibition on sitting for the relevant admissions exams for 2–5 years, and revocation of any degree or diploma that has been conferred, among others (art. 77, para. 2). The amendment also imposes administrative penalties on those who allow others to fraudulently use their own identities and those who “organize or instruct” others to commit identity thefts in school admissions (id. paras. 3–4). Finally, the amendment allows those whose identities have been stolen to request restoration of their admission qualifications (id. para. 5).

Regulatory Streamlining & Pilots

The NPCSC approved two bills on regulatory reforms on Thursday.

The first is a set of minor amendments to eight statutes, including the Road Traffic Safety Law [道路交通安全法].[1] These amendments seek to streamline the regulatory process by, for instance, eliminating some regulatory approvals or changing such requirements to filing obligations.  Under the amended Road Traffic Safety Law, for example, driving schools or classes need only be registered with—and no longer be certified by—the transportation authorities. Of note, the NPCSC rejected one of the proposed amendments. The State Council recommended repeal of the Advertising Law requirement that advertisements for pesticides and veterinary drugs be pre-approved by market regulatory authorities. This requirement was left intact, however, after some legislators argued that those chemicals “bear on the people’s health and safety,” so the requirement should be retained to “better safeguard food and drug safety.” This set of amendments has already taken effect.

The NPCSC also authorized a new set of regulatory pilots in China’s free trade zones (FTZs) for three years, starting July 1, 2021. Like the FTZ pilots authorized by the NPCSC in October 2019, these new programs would suspend certain regulatory requirements in seven statutes[2] to ease the compliance burden on businesses. For instance, they would no longer need to obtain a license to engage in auction business(see Auction Law arts. 11–12), but only need to make a filing with the relevant authorities. The State Council is required to submit a mid-term report on these pilots and submit bills to codify them (if proven sound) before they expire.

Very Briefly

The NPCSC also approved three others bills on Thursday:

  • Revision to the Maritime Traffic Safety Law: This revision is the first overhaul of the Law since its enactment in 1983 and has more than doubled its length. It now contains 122 articles in ten chapters, addressing issues including the management of vessels and crews, maritime traffic standards and safety, maritime search and rescue, and investigation of maritime traffic accidents. We are unable to provide an in-depth analysis due to our lack of expertise in this field. If you are qualified and willing to offer a summary or an analysis, please contact us. The revised Law will take effect on September 1, 2021.
  • Amendment to the Measures for Electing Delegates from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to the NPC and Local People’s Congresses at or Above the County Level [中国人民解放军选举全国人民代表大会和县级以上地方各级人民代表大会代表的办法]: This national law governs the elections of people’s congress delegates from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The amendment made on Thursday makes mostly technical changes consistent with the organizational reforms to the PLA in the past few years. It also makes clear that elections of delegates from the People’s Armed Police, now a part of the armed forces, will be governed by this law as well (art. 4). The amendment took effect on April 30.
  • Revision to the Decision on Strengthening the Review and Oversight of the Central Budget [关于加强中央预算审查监督的决定]: This Decision, first adopted in 1999, governs the NPCSC’s oversight of the central budgetary process, including budget formulation, implementation, adjustment, audit, and other relevant processes. The revision emphasizes the principle of “full-scope review” [全口径审查] and “full-process oversight” [全过程监督] and lays down more detailed requirements the State Council must follow as well as clearer focus of the NPCSC’s oversight in each of the steps. The revised Decision has already taken effect.

[1] The other statutes amended are the Fire Control Law [消防法], Import and Export Commodity Inspection Law [进出口商品检验法], Advertising Law [广告法], Grassland Law [草原法], Civil Aviation Law [民用航空法], Customs Law [海关法], and Food Safety Law [食品安全法].

[2] They are the Private Education Promotion Law [民办教育促进法], Accounting Law [会计法], Certified Public Accountants Law [注册会计师法], Auction Law [拍卖法], Banking Supervision and Administration Law [银行业监督管理法], Commercial Banks Law [商业银行法], and Insurance Law [保险法].

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