Year in Review: The NPC and the Observer in 2022

As we bid farewell to 2022, we look back at the National People’s Congress’s and our work in the past year.

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NPC Calendar: January 2023

The following laws take effect on January 1:

The NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) is soliciting public comment on the following bills through January 28:

In accordance with a March 2022 NPC decision (discussed here), the roughly 3,000 delegates to the 14th NPC will be elected by the end of this month.

The 13th NPCSC will convene for its final regularly scheduled session in late February.

Explainer: NPCSC’s Interpretation of Hong Kong National Security Law over Jimmy Lai’s Foreign Defense Counsel

On December 30, China’s national legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), issued its inaugural interpretation (Interpretation) of the Law on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong SAR (HKNSL) [香港特别行政区维护国家安全法]. We have recently explained the events leading up to the Interpretation in detail here. In sum: Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, is facing criminal charges under Hong Kong’s local sedition law and the HKNSL. He decided to retain Timothy Owen, a renowned British barrister, for his defense. Owen is not admitted to the Hong Kong bar, but the trial court allowed him to represent Lai on an ad hoc basis. After having failed to have the trial court’s decision reversed on appeal, the Hong Kong government turned to the NPCSC, which has the ultimate authority to interpret the HKNSL.

John Lee, Hong Kong’s leader, requested the NPCSC to answer this open-ended question: “Based on the legislative intent and objectives of the [HKNSL], can an overseas solicitor or barrister who is not qualified to practise generally in Hong Kong participate by any means in the handling of work in cases concerning offence endangering national security?” His request, notably, did not identify any specific HKNSL provision that needs clarification.

Contrary to what many had expected, the NPCSC exercised restraint in responding to Lee’s request. It did not directly ban foreign lawyers from participating in national security cases; in fact, it altogether punted on the question presented. The Interpretation instead clarifies that the HKNSL has already given the Hong Kong government adequate tools to resolve the issue. The ball is now back in the latter’s court.

Below, we explain Friday’s Interpretation and offer some preliminary thoughts on its implications in Q&A format.

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NPCSC Seeks Public Comment on 13 Bills: Foreign Sovereign Immunity, Foreign Relations, Counterespionage, Lawmaking Reform, Charity Regulation, Financial Stability, Foreign-Related Litigation & More

The NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) is soliciting public comments on the following 13 bills through January 28, 2023:

Draft NameChinese TextExplanatory Document
Legislation Law (2nd Draft Amendment)
立法法修正草案二次审议稿
PDF · Δ
(English Δ)
PDF
Company Law (2nd Draft Revision)
公司法修订草案二次审议稿
PDFPDF
Counterespionage Law (2nd Draft Revision)
反间谍法修订草案二次审议稿
PDF · Δ
($ English)
PDF
Qinghai–Tibet Plateau Ecological Conservation Law (2nd Draft)
青藏高原生态保护法草案二次审议稿
PDFPDF
Marine Environmental Protection Law (Draft Revision)
海洋环境保护法修订草案
PDFPDF
Rural Collective Economic Organizations Law (Draft)
农村集体经济组织法草案
PDFPDF
Charity Law (Draft Revision)
慈善法修订草案
PDF · ΔPDF
Value-Added Tax Law (Draft)
增值税法草案
PDF ΔPDF
Financial Stability Law (Draft)
金融稳定法草案
PDFPDF
Foreign Sovereign Immunity Law (Draft)
外国国家豁免法草案
PDF
($ English)
PDF
Civil Procedure Law (Draft Amendment)
民事诉讼法修正草案
PDF · ΔPDF
Administrative Litigation Law (Draft Amendment)
行政诉讼法修正草案
PDF · ΔPDF
Foreign Relations Law (Draft)
对外关系法草案
PDFPDF

English translations will be provided if and when available. All explanatory documents are in Chinese and compiled in a single PDF; the links above will take you to the corresponding pages in the PDF only if you are using a desktop browser (this does not work on a phone or a tablet).

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“Sweep Away Darkness, Eliminate Evil”: A Belated Overview of China’s First Organized Crime Law

Image by joko sutrisno on Vecteezy

In December 2021, the NPC Standing Committee adopted the Anti–Organized Crime Law (AOCL or Law) [反有组织犯罪法], China’s first statute dedicated to combatting organized crime. The Law has taken effect on May 1, 2022. It came at a time when the Communist Party’s three-year campaign to “clear out the underworld” (or saohei, short for “扫黑除恶,” literally “sweep away darkness and eliminate evil”) that began in 2018 was wrapping up and when central authorities were calling for the “normalization” of the saohei campaign.

China previously launched two similarly named special actions in the 2000s to “crack down on the underworld,” or dahei (short for “打黑除恶”). The difference in one character, however, gave the latest saohei campaign a broader scope. Rather than fight organize crime in a whack-a-mole fashion primarily to ensure public safety, saohei is “inherently political”: it is expressly aimed at solidifying the Party’s rule down to the lowest levels of governance. To that end, China’s national criminal justice authorities issued a series of guidance documents to broadly define “organized crime” and related concepts, call for whole-of-society efforts to prevent organized crime, set forth special criminal procedures and powers, and penalize corrupt officials who enable such criminal activities.

The AOCL is a key tool to “normalize” the saohei campaign. It was enacted in part to “safeguard national security, social order, and economic order,” and incorporated many of the measures contained in the guidance documents. As saohei will remain part of the Party’s social governance program for at least the next five years, below we take a belated look at the AOCL.

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NPCSC Session Watch: Lawmaking Reforms, Corporate Bankruptcy, Charity, Financial Stability, Foreign Sovereign Immunity, Cross-Border Litigation & More

UPDATE (Jan. 3, 2023): On December 30, 2022, the NPCSC adopted the revision to the Wild Animals Protection Law, effective May 1, 2023, and the Reservists Law, effective March 1, 2023.

UPDATE (Dec. 27, 2022): The official readout of the session’s first meeting reveals that the NPCSC is also reviewing a draft amendment to the Foreign Trade Law [对外贸易法] to codify a pilot administrative reform that recently expired on December 1. The readout also shows that the State Council has requested an interpretation of “relevant articles” of the Hong Kong National Security Law, without elaborating. We expect both to pass on Friday. Finally, it appears that the draft revision to the Enterprise Bankruptcy Law [企业破产法] has been removed from this session’s agenda.

Last Friday, the Council of Chairpersons decided to convene the 38th and second-to-last session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) from December 27 to 30. The session’s tentative agenda includes fifteen bills. The Hong Kong government’s requested interpretation of the Hong Kong National Security Law, however, is not among them. But as we have explained, the NPCSC may hide the existence of a bill until after its adoption, so it could still consider an interpretation at the upcoming session. Below we briefly preview the bills slated for review.

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