NPCSC Session Watch: Women’s Rights, Accessibility, Administrative & Lawmaking Reforms, Military Reservists & More

Photo by Jakub Pabis on Unsplash

The Council of Chairpersons decided on Thursday, October 13 to convene the 37th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) from October 26 to 30, shortly after the Communist Party’s upcoming 20th National Congress (to open on October 16) closes. Seven bills are on the tentative agenda, which we preview below.

Returning Bills

Three bills return for further review.

The draft revision to the Women’s Rights and Interests Protection Law [妇女权益保障法] and the draft Yellow River Protection Law [黄河保护法] return for their third review. The draft revision to the Animal Husbandry Law [畜牧法] returns for its second review. All three bills are expected to pass at the upcoming session, and we will discuss them in more detail in our post-session recap.

New Bills

Four new bills have been submitted for review.

First, the Council of Chairpersons submitted a draft amendment to the Legislation Law [立法法]. This statute governs a variety of subjects related to lawmaking: it lays down the national legislature’s legislative procedure, regulates the authority of various rulemaking bodies, outlines a hierarchy of legislative categories, and provides for a mechanism for resolving conflicts among legislation (the so-called “recording and review” [备案审查] process). The contents of the amendment are so far unclear, but it is expected to include additional provisions on the State Supervision Commission’s authority to issue “supervision regulations” [监察法规], currently governed by a short NPCSC decision. The amendment could also incorporate some of the newer rules on “recording and review,” including clearer grounds for reviewing legislation’s validity. We expect the NPCSC to conduct a second review of the amendment in December and then refer it to next year’s NPC session for approval.

Second, the NPC Social Development Affairs Committee submitted a draft Barrier-Free Environments Development Law [无障碍环境建设法]. The main national legal authority governing barrier-free environments is a set of State Council regulations issued in 2012. The regulations have not lived up to the expectations of people with disabilities and accessibility advocates, however, and many public facilities remain inaccessible, due to few binding legal obligations, inadequate funding, and buck-passing among government agencies. In 2019, a paraplegic accessibility advocate fell down a drop and died while trying to navigate around a path that should have been barrier-free. The draft Law will likely address the accessibility needs of both people with disabilities and the elderly. In their implementation plan for developing barrier-free environments during the 14th Five-Year Plan period, the China Disabled Persons’ Federation and twelve State Council agencies included soft accessibility targets for both newly built urban roads and public buildings as well as for websites and mobile apps that are “closely related to the people’s livelihood” (such as government websites). We expect the bill to pass after three reviews.

Third, the State Council submitted a draft revision to the Administrative Reconsideration Law [行政复议法]. This would be the statute’s first overhaul since its passage in 1999. Administrative reconsideration refers to a superior administrative agency’s review of a subordinate agency’s action. It is a less expensive and more efficient alternative to administrative litigation and was thus envisioned as the “main channel” for resolving disputes between administrative agencies and private parties. The reality is, however, that the administrative reconsideration system suffers from a lack of public trust and is not widely used. The reviewing bodies are often perceived as lacking independence and neutrality, many are not adequately staffed, and in most cases they have not been able to offer any relief to aggrieved parties. The revision, according to a 2020 draft, would seek to address those issues. We expect it to pass after three reviews.

Finally, the State Council and the Central Military Commission jointly submitted a draft Reservists Law [预备役人员法]. “Reservists,” under the Military Service Law [兵役法] as revised in 2021, refer to “those pre-assigned to active service or assigned to reserve service.” That Law used to govern the enlistment age and military training of reservists, but such provisions were deleted as part of the revision. As the Central Military Commission disclosed at that time, it was drafting a new special law, now revealed to be the Reservists Law, to regulate those matters. We expect it to pass after two or three reviews.

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