As we bid farewell to 2021, we look back at the National People’s Congress’s and our work in the past year.
The NPC in 2021
2021 was the legislature’s most productive year yet in the New Era. The NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) was in session for a total of 25 ½ days. It held six regular sessions and, following the Communist Party’s call for additional legislative sessions, a seventh full-length session in January. The NPCSC also held a one-day special session in late March to approve sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system. Earlier that month, the 13th NPC met for its fourth annual session and adopted a decision that initiated the process for overhauling Hong Kong’s election rules. Altogether, the NPC and its Standing Committee enacted 15 new laws and approved major changes to 18, likely setting a record for the number of major bills adopted in a given year. The legislature also approved or updated 10 quasi-legislative decisions; an additional 15 bills are pending as of today. For details, please see the lists at the end of this section.
And now, we present our our annual list of highlights of the NPC’s work in the past year, not necessarily in order of significance:
- Hong Kong: For the second year in a row, the national legislature took drastic legislative actions against Hong Kong. On March 11, the NPC adopted a decision authorizing the NPCSC to “improve” Hong Kong’s electoral system by ensuring that the city will be governed by “patriots” only. Less than three weeks later, the NPCSC unanimously approved revisions to Annexes I and II to the Hong Kong Basic Law, which govern, respectively, the selection of the Chief Executive and formation of the Legislative Council. The revised Annexes, in short, reduced the number of directly elected seats in the Legislative Council, introduced strict nomination and vetting requirements, and barred Hong Kong from initiating future political reforms on its own. As a result, no major pro-democracy party participated in December’s Legislative Council general election, and the voter turnout for directly elected seats hit a record low of 30.2%.
- Constitutional review: The NPCSC Legislative Affairs Commission continued to engage with constitutional issues during the recording-and-review process. In a new report released last week, the Commission disclosed that it had rejected local regulations that mandated parentage testing for individuals who were suspected of exceeding birth quotas, in part relying on constitutional provisions that protect personal dignity, marriage, families, and children. The Commission also adhered to its prior aggressive reading of the Constitution’s Mandarin-promotion provision, concluding that Hohhot’s local legislation violated that provision by failing to require ethnic schools to teach in Mandarin. Unfortunately, in neither instance did the Commission disclose any reasoning for its decisions.
- Data legislation: In 2021, the NPCSC enacted two pieces of long-awaited data legislation: the Data Security Law [数据安全法] and the Personal Information Protection Law [个人信息保护法]. As two important pillars of China’s fast-growing data governance framework, the Laws received global attention during their legislative processes. Both have taken effect in the fall.
- Property tax pilot: In October, without any prior notice, the NPCSC authorized the State Council to carry out pilot projects for a property tax in certain regions for at least five years. The State Council was given significant discretion over the pilots, including the authority to determine when and where to conduct the pilots as well as the specifics of the tax, such as the tax rate. So far, two months after the NPCSC has granted the authorization, the State Council still has not issued rules to start the pilots.
- Foreign-related legislation: Consistent with the Party’s directive to focus on legislation in “foreign-related fields” [涉外领域], the legislature took a number of actions in this area. The NPCSC enacted a Coast Guard Law [海警法] and a Land Borders Law [陆地国界法], prompting criticisms from China’s neighbors. It adopted an Anti–Foreign Sanctions Law [反外国制裁法], authorizing government agencies to take countermeasures against foreign sanctions. It also wrote extraterritoriality provisions in other legislation, including the two data laws mentioned above, to extend the territorial reach of Chinese laws.
In 2021, the Communist Party gave a great deal of attention to the NPC and the people’s congress system, from the set of NPC-related reform goals in January’s five-year Plan on Building the Rule of Law in China [法治中国建设规划], to October’s first high-level Central Conference on Work Related to the People’s Congresses. According to state media, after the Conference the NPCSC drafted and the Party approved an Opinion on Upholding and Improving the People’s Congress System and Strengthening and Improving Work Related to People’s Congresses in the New Era [中共中央关于新时代坚持和完善人民代表大会制度、加强和改进人大工作的意见], a comprehensive guiding document for reforming the people’s congress system (its full text has not been released). The significance of all these developments should become clearer in 2022 and the years to come.
New laws passed in 2021
- Coast Guard Law [海警法] (Jan. 22)
- Rural Revitalization Promotion Law [乡村振兴促进法] (Apr. 29)
- Anti–Food Waste Law [反食品浪费法] (Apr. 29)
- Data Security Law [数据安全法] (June 10)
- Hainan Free Trade Port Law [海南自由贸易港法] (June 10)
- Law on the Protection of the Status, Rights, and Interests of Military Personnel [军人地位和权益保障法] (June 10)
- Stamp Tax Law [印花税法] (June 10)
- Anti–Foreign Sanctions Law [反外国制裁法] (June 10)
- Personal Information Protection Law [个人信息保护法] (Aug. 20)
- Supervision Officials Law [监察官法] (Aug. 20)
- Legal Aid Law [法律援助法] (Aug. 20)
- Family Education Promotion Law [家庭教育促进法] (Oct. 23)
- Land Borders Law [陆地国界法] (Oct. 23)
- Anti–Organized Crime Law [反有组织犯罪法] (Dec. 24)
- Wetlands Protection Law [湿地保护法] (Dec. 24)
Revisions & major amendments passed in 2021
- Revision to the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law [动物防疫法] (Jan. 22)
- Revision to the Administrative Punishments Law [行政处罚法] (Jan. 22)
- Amendment to the NPC Organic Law [全国人民代表大会组织法] (Mar. 11)
- Amendment to the NPC Rules of Procedure [全国人民代表大会议事规则] (Mar. 11)
- Revision to Annex I to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Basic Law [香港特别行政区基本法附件一] (Mar. 30)
- Revision to Annex II to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Basic Law [香港特别行政区基本法附件二] (Mar. 30)
- Revision to the Maritime Traffic Safety Law [海上交通安全法] (Apr. 29)
- Amendment to the Education Law [教育法] (Apr. 29)
- Revision to the Military Facilities Protection Law [军事设施保护法] (June 10)
- Amendment to Workplace Safety Law [安全生产法] (June 10)
- Physicians Law [医师法] (i.e., revision to the Licensed Physicians Law [执业医师法]) (Aug. 20)
- Revision to the Military Service Law [兵役法] (Aug. 20)
- Amendment to the Population and Family Planning Law [人口与计划生育法] (Aug. 20)
- Amendment to the Audit Law [审计法] (Oct. 23)
- Revision to the Scientific and Technological Progress Law [科学技术进步法] (Dec. 24)
- Amendment to the Seed Law [种子法] (Dec. 24)
- Law on the Prevention and Control of Noise Pollution [噪声污染防治法] (i.e., revision to the Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Noise Pollution [环境噪声污染防治法]) (Dec. 24)
- Amendment to the Civil Procedure Law [民事诉讼法] (Dec. 24)
Legislative bills pending by the end of 2021
- Draft revision to the Wild Animals Protection Law [野生动物保护法] (reviewed in Oct. 2020) [not a typo!]
- Draft Futures and Derivatives Law [期货和衍生品法] (reviewed in Apr. & Oct. 2021)
- Draft revision to the Vocational Education Law [职业教育法] (reviewed in June & Dec. 2021)
- Draft amendment to the Organic Law of Local People’s Congresses at All Levels and Local People’s Governments at All Levels [地方各级人民代表大会和地方各级人民政府组织法] (reviewed in Oct. & Dec. 2021)
- Draft revision to the Agricultural Products Quality and Safety Law [农产品质量安全法] (reviewed in Oct. 2021)
- Draft revision to the Animal Husbandry Law [畜牧法] (reviewed in Oct. 2021)
- Draft revision to the Sports Law [体育法] (reviewed in Oct. 2021)
- Draft amendment to the Anti-Monopoly Law [反垄断法] (reviewed in Oct. 2021)
- Draft Law Against Telecommunications Network Fraud [反电信网络诈骗法] (reviewed in Oct. 2021)
- Draft Emergency Response and Management Law [突发事件应对管理法] (i.e., revision to the Emergency Response Law [突发事件应对法]) (reviewed in Dec. 2021)
- Draft revision to the Company Law [公司法] (reviewed in Dec. 2021)
- Draft Yellow River Protection Law [黄河保护法] (reviewed in Dec. 2021)
- Draft Black Soil Protection Law 黑土地保护法 (reviewed in Dec. 2021)
- Draft amendment to the NPC Standing Committee Rules of Procedure[全国人民代表大会常务委员会议事规则] (reviewed in Dec. 2021)
- Draft revision to the Women’s Rights and Interests Protection Law [妇女权益保障法] (reviewed in Dec. 2021)
Quasi-legislative decisions passed in 2021
- Decision on Establishing a Beijing Financial Court [关于设立北京金融法院的决定] (Jan. 22)
- Decision on Improving the Electoral System of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region [关于完善香港特别行政区选举制度的决定] (Mar. 11)
- Decision on Authorizing the State Council to Temporarily Adjust the Application of Relevant Legal Provisions in the Pilot Free Trade Zones [关于授权国务院在自由贸易试验区暂时调整适用有关法律规定的决定] (Apr. 29)
- Revision to the Decision on Strengthening the Review and Oversight of Central Budgets [关于加强中央预算审查监督的决定] (Apr. 29)
- Decision on Authorizing the Shanghai Municipal People’s Congress and Its Standing Committee to Formulate Pudong New Area Regulations [关于授权上海市人民代表大会及其常务委员会制定浦东新区法规的决定] (June 10)
- Decision on Authorizing the Supreme People’s Court to Conduct Pilot Reform of the Orientation of the Tier-Based Functions of the Four Tiers of Courts [关于授权最高人民法院组织开展四级法院审级职能定位改革试点工作的决定] (Aug. 20)
- Decision on Temporarily Adjusting the Application of Relevant Legal Provisions During the Deepening of the Reform of the National Defense Mobilization System [关于深化国防动员体制改革期间暂时调整适用相关法律规定的决定] (Oct. 23)
- Decision on Authorizing the State Council to Pilot Property Tax Reforms in Certain Regions [关于授权国务院在部分地区开展房地产税改革试点工作的决定] (Oct. 23)
- Decision on Authorizing the State Council to Temporarily Adjust the Application of Relevant Provisions of the Metrology Law of the People’s Republic of China in the Cities Practicing the Pilot on Business Environment Innovation [关于授权国务院在营商环境创新试点城市暂时调整适用《中华人民共和国计量法》有关规定的决定] (Oct. 23)
- Revision to the Decision on Strengthening the Oversight of Economic Work [关于加强经济工作监督的决定] (Dec. 24)
NPC Observer in 2021
We published 51 posts in 2021, our most productive year to date. The website received just over 116,000 pageviews (a modest ~3.5% increase over 2020) by more than 50,500 visitors from 169 jurisdictions worldwide. Readers from the United States, once again, contributed the most traffic (about a quarter of the total), followed by visitors from Hong Kong, mainland China, the United Kingdom, and Germany. And over 6,500 of you have followed us on social media.
Our most viewed post in 2021 was our guide to China’s Civil Code (which has been in effect for a full year today), followed by our explainer of the NPC’s decision authorizing Hong Kong’s electoral overhaul. The Civil Code page was again the most viewed bill page™ in 2021, followed by those for the Personal Information Protection Law and the Data Security Law.
In the past year, we continued to add new resources and improve reader experience. We launched a Resources portal that collects all the introductory materials we have written about the NPC—FAQs, explainers, and user guides—as well as useful external links. We created three separate new pages listing, respectively, all current Chinese statutes, the NPCSC’s legislative interpretations, and the legislature’s quasi-legislative decisions. Finally, we also published a Recording & Review portal, which collects all our writings on the increasingly important oversight process, its latest governing rules (with our English translation), and the NPCSC Legislative Affairs Commission’s annual reports on recording and review.
2021 was also a milestone for us. In October, we celebrated NPC Observer’s fifth anniversary and used the occasion to publish a new About Us page, where we introduce our history, our work, our editorial policy, and our team. We again would like to express our sincere gratitude to those who have supported us along the way.
That concludes our programming in 2021. Best wishes to everyone in 2022.
Happy New Year!