NPCSC Session Watch: Antitrust, Telecom Fraud, Agriculture, Local Governance, Reform Pilots & More (Corrected)

The Council of Chairpersons decided on Tuesday, September 28 to convene the 31st session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) from October 19 to 23. The session’s tentative agenda includes fourteen bills. A quick rundown follows.

Returning Bills

Five bills return for further review.

The draft Family Education Promotion Law [家庭教育促进法] and draft Land Borders Law [陆地国界法] both return for their third—and most likely final—review. The draft amendment to the Audit Law [审计法] returns for a second review and is also expected to pass at the upcoming session.

The draft Wetlands Protection Law [湿地保护法] and draft Futures Law [期货法] both return for a second reading as well, and at least one more review likely awaits both.

New Bills

Nine new bills have been submitted for review.

First, the State Council submitted a draft amendment to the Anti-Monopoly Law [反垄断法]. Previously the State Administration for Market Regulation solicited public comments on a prior draft in January 2021. That draft focuses on revamping China’s merger control regime as well as drastically increasing the fines for anti-monopoly violations. It also provides additional guidance on determining a company’s dominant position in the internet sector. Depending on the new draft’s scope and proposed changes, we expect the bill to pass after two or three reviews.

Second, the State Council also submitted for review a draft revision to the Agricultural Products Quality Safety Law [农产品质量安全法]. Except for several technical amendments in 2018, the Law has not been otherwise updated since its enactment in 2006. The pending revision, based on a prior draft released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in June 2019, would completely overhaul the Law. It would broaden the scope of the Law to additionally cover individual farmers and family farms, besides corporate entities. It would require safety monitoring of the places of origin of agricultural products, strengthen regulation of agricultural inputs [农业投入品] (such as pesticides), and implement a traceability system for the qualify safety of agricultural products. Finally, the revision would seek to harmonize the Law with newer laws and regulations (such as the 2015 Food Safety Law [食品安全法]) and increase the penalties for violations. We expect the revision to pass after two or three reviews.

Third, the Council of Chairpersons submitted a draft Law Against Telecommunication Network Fraud [反电信网络诈骗法]. Telecom fraud has run rampant in recent years, according to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP), and authorities arrested over 154,000 persons on telecom fraud charges in the first five months of 2021 alone. The SPP, along with the Supreme People’s Court and the Ministry of Public Security, twice issued guidelines on handling telecom fraud cases, first in December 2016, and then in June 2021, soon after Xi Jinping himself gave instructions on combatting telecom fraud. The contents of the new bill are not immediately clear. We expect it to pass after two or three reviews.

Fourth, the Council of Chairpersons also submitted a draft amendment to the Organic Law of Local People’s Congresses at All Levels and Local People’s Governments at All Levels (Local Organic Law) [地方各级人民代表大会和地方各级人民政府组织法]. The amendment will address the creation of supervision commissions in 2016–2017 and accordingly adjust the functions of local people’s congresses and people’s governments. The amendment is also likely to codify some of the measures laid down in a 2015 policy document to beef up the institutional capacity of township- and county-level people’s congresses. For instance, the policy document called for establishing permanent bodies and personnel in township-level congresses and increasing the frequency with which they meet. Because the Local Organic Law was originally adopted by the NPC, the pending amendment might also require the full NPC’s approval, depending on its scope. [Correction (Oct. 2, 2021): This paragraph previously suggested that the new draft amendment might increase the number of standing committee members at the county-level, a change called for by the 2015 policy document. But a 2015 amendment to the Local Organic Law has already made this change.]

Fifth, the NPC Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee submitted a draft revision to the Animal Husbandry Law [畜牧法]. This project was prioritized in response to the Covid-19 pandemic; except for a minor amendment in 2015, the Law has not otherwise been updated since its initial adoption in 2005. Earliest this year, the NPCSC inspected the enforcement of the Law and outlined a series of recommendations for legislative changes: closing existing regulatory loopholes, adding measures to combat animal diseases, and addressing the protection of the genetic resources of livestock and poultry, among others. We expect the revision to pass after two or three reviews.

Sixth, the NPC Social Development Affairs Committee submitted a draft revision to the Sports Law [体育法] (also translated as Physical Culture and Sports Law). The Law has only undergone two rounds of minor amendments since its enactment in 1995 and has become outdated. Experts have recommended adding provisions to protect citizen’s right to physical training [体育权] and to establish a sports arbitration system, among others. We expect the revision to pass after two or three reviews.

Seventh, the Supreme People’s Court submitted a draft amendment to the Civil Procedure Law [民事诉讼法]. The amendment is expected to codify an ongoing civil procedure reform, designed to channel civil lawsuits of different degrees of complexity through different procedures to resolve disputes more efficiently. The reform is set to expire in January 2022, so we expect the amendment to pass before then, likely after two reviews in quick succession.

Finally, two new draft decisions that would authorize new reform pilots were submitted for review. The first, submitted by the State Council, requested the suspension of unspecified provisions of the Metrology Law [计量法] in the six recently designated “pilot cities for business environment innovation” [营商环境创新试点城市]: Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. The second draft decision, jointly submitted by the State Council and the Central Military Commission, would authorize the suspension of certain provisions in unspecified statutes (likely to include the National Defense Mobilization Law [国防动员法]) during the reform of the national defense mobilization system. No further detail about either decision is available at this point. We expect the NPCSC to approve both decisions at its upcoming session.

Readers may recall that the NPCSC reviewed draft decisions that would apply the Anti–Foreign Sanctions Law [反外国制裁法] to Hong Kong and Macao at its August session, but unexpectedly deferred votes on them. Based on currently available information, it does not appear that the two decisions would be reviewed again at the session next month.

The NPCSC is also expected to ratify an extradition treaty with the Republic of Chile—and, as made possible by the latest amendment to the Copyright Law [著作权法], the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, which China already signed in 2013.

With contribution from Taige Hu

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