The Legislative Affairs Commission (LAC; 法制工作委员会) under the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) is such a unique institution that one can hardly find an equivalent in another country’s legislature. Consisting mostly of unelected and unidentified members, the LAC works in secrecy, making all decisions behind closed doors. In fact, there is not even a website detailing its functions and organizational structure. The LAC’s employees outnumber NPCSC members, and unlike the latter cohort, they all work full-time and include more legal experts than the staff of any other NPC body (Lu 2013). Their decisions play significant roles throughout the legislative process, from the agenda-setting stage to deliberations—and even after laws are enacted. One Chinese scholar thus aptly dubs the LAC staff “invisible legislators” (隐形立法者) (Lu 2013, p. 74). Some even worry that they may have usurped the powers of elected NPCSC members, thus becoming de facto legislators (Chu 2017).
Here in the third installment of Scholarship Highlight, we provide an overview of the LAC—an essential yet peculiar institution under the NPCSC—and its roles in the legislative process.