Demystifying the NPC’s Quasi-Legislative Decisions

As China’s supreme legislature, the NPC and its Standing Committee (NPCSC) make “laws” [法律]—or “statutes,” as we will refer to them below. Statutes in the constitutional sense are legal authorities (1) approved by a majority vote in either legislative body and (2) then promulgated by the P.R.C. President in a presidential order. They are most commonly titled “P.R.C. ××× Law” [中华人民共和国×××法]. Besides statutes, the legislature also routinely passes legal instruments styled as “decisions” [决定] (or occasionally “resolutions” [决议]).[1] Earlier in the spotlight, for instance, was an NPCSC decision that disqualified four pro-democracy Hong Kong legislators. Or the NPC’s May 28, 2020 decision that led to the enactment of the Hong Kong National Security Law. What is the nature of these “decisions”? Are they any different from the statutes? If so, to what extent? As the legislature (the NPCSC, in particular) makes increasing use of decisions, we explore these questions below.

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NPC Calendar: February 2021

The Coast Guard Law [海警法] takes effect on February 1.

The 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) is expected convene for its 26th session soon after the week-long Spring Festival holiday, which runs from February 11 to 17 this year. The Council of Chairpersons is expected to meet before the holiday to decide on the agenda and dates of the session. The NPCSC will mainly prepare for the 2021 NPC session at its upcoming meeting, but may still review one or two legislative bills. Possible candidates include:

The NPCSC is seeking public comments on the following bills through February 25:

NPCSC Passes Coast Guard Law, Revises Administrative Penalties Law & Animal Epidemic Prevention Law & Establishes Beijing Financial Court

The 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) concluded its 25th session on Friday, January 22 and adopted four bills. As usual, we will summarize them below in varying levels of detail. As of this post’s publication, the NPCSC has yet to release all associated legislative records, but when it eventually does, the records will be accessible from the relevant bill pages (linked below).

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Recording & Review Pt. 7: Constitutionally Mandated Mandarin-Medium Education

Recording & Review is a series that focuses on the NPC Standing Committee’s eponymous oversight process, whereby its Legislative Affairs Commission reviews the validity of various types of normative documents, including local regulations and judicial interpretations. A comprehensive introduction to “recording and review” can be found here, and past installments of this series here.


On Wednesday, January 20, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) heard its Legislative Affairs Commission’s annual report on its efforts in 2020 to record and review the validity of various types of sub-statutory documents, including local regulations and judicial interpretations. In sum, a document will fail review if the Commission deems it (1) unconstitutional; (2) contrary to the Communist Party’s major policies; (3) unlawful; or (4) otherwise “clearly inappropriate.” The Commission will then ask the document’s enacting body to amend or repeal it. This year’s report is particularly notable in that it devotes a full section to discussing how the Commission “proactively and prudently” dealt with constitutional issues in the recording-and-review process. This section mentions three cases, and below, we will focus on one of them, which concerns the language of instruction used by China’s ethnic schools.

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Communist Party Releases New Set of NPC-Related Reform Goals in First Five-Year Plan on Building Rule of Law in China

On Sunday, January 10, 2021, the Communist Party releases China’s first Plan on Building the Rule of Law in China [法治中国建设规划], for the years 2020 to 2025. According to an unnamed Party official interviewed by Xinhua, the Plan was approved by two top Party institutions: the Central Commission for Overall Law-Based Governance and the Politburo Standing Committee. The Plan is a comprehensive document addressing all aspects of China’s legal reform. Not only does it restate and refine reform objectives laid down since the 18th Party Congress in 2012, it also includes new reform goals. Below, we will focus on four subsections of the Plan that set forth new reform goals relating to the NPC. We will translate the relevant parts of those subsections and supplement with our comments.

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2020 in Review: A Norm-Breaking Year at the NPC

How best to describe 2020? Challenging. Surreal. Exhausting. And for China’s national legislature, norm-breaking. On this last day of the year, we look back, as usual, at the National People’s Congress’s and our work in 2020. To start, we recount those NPC institutional norms that were burned by the dumpster fire that was 2020.

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NPC Calendar: January 2021

The following laws take effect on January 1:

The NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) is seeking public comments on the following bills through January 29:

Given recent reports that the NPCSC was contemplating Hong Kong-related actions and the fact that it did not hear several routine year-end reports at its recent December session, there is a possibility that the NPCSC would meet for a special session this month.

The NPCSC will convene for its next regularly scheduled session in late February.

NPCSC Seeks Public Comments on Draft Amendments to NPC Organic & Procedural Rules, Maritime Traffic Law Revision, Anti–Organized Crime Law, Anti–Food Waste Law, Two Military Bills & Two Other Bills

The NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) is soliciting public comments on the following nine bills through January 29, 2021:

Draft NameChinese TextExplanatory Document
NPC Organic Law (2nd Draft Amendment)
全国人民代表大会组织法修正案草案二次审议稿
PDFPDF
NPC Rules of Procedure (2nd Draft Amendment)
全国人民代表大会议事规则修正案草案二次审议稿
PDFPDF
Rural Revitalization Promotion Law (2nd Draft)
乡村振兴促进法草案二次审议稿
PDFPDF
Hainan Free Trade Port Law (Draft)
海南自由贸易港法草案
PDFPDF
Anti–Organized Crime Law (Draft)
反有组织犯罪法草案
PDF
(English)
PDF
Anti–Food Waste Law (Draft)
反食品浪费法草案
PDFPDF
Law on the Protection of the Status, Rights, and Interests of Military Personnel (Draft)
军人地位和权益保障法草案
PDFPDF
Maritime Traffic Safety Law (Draft Revision)
海上交通安全法修订草案
PDFPDF
Military Facilities Protection Law (Draft Revision)
军事设施保护法修订草案
PDFPDF

English translations will be provided if and when available. All explanatory documents are in Chinese. The NPCSC also reviewed a second draft of the Coast Guard Law [海警法], a draft Supervisors Law [监察官法], and a draft revision to the Military Service Law [兵役法] at last week’s session, but did not also release them for public comments today.

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NPCSC Passes New Criminal Law Amendment, Revises National Defense Law & Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Law & Establishes Hainan IP Court

The 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) concluded its 24th session on Saturday, December 26, 2020 and adopted six bills. Below, we will summarize them in varying levels of detail. Contrary to previous Hong Kong media reports, the NPCSC did not take any Hong Kong-related action at its session last week.

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NPCSC Legislative Affairs Commission Releases New Responses to Legal Inquiries

The NPC Standing Committee’s Legislative Affairs Commission (Commission) is a professional support body that is indispensable to the lawmaking process. We have previously written a profile of the Commission (now a bit outdated). Among its many functions is the relatively obscure authority to respond to “legal inquiries concerning specific questions” [有关具体问题的法律询问] (Legislation Law [立法法] art. 64). Few of the Commission’s responses to such inquiries have been made public. It has issued thousands of them,1 but had made public only about 200 by 2007. It had altogether stopped the release since then—until September 2020. Late that month, the Commission quietly posted a new batch of responses to legal inquiries online after a thirteen-year hiatus. Below, we first offer a more in-depth look at the Commission’s legal inquiry responses, before turning to the newly released responses themselves.

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