Covering China’s National People’s Congress and its Standing Committee
Taige Hu has been the deputy manager of NPC Observer since July 2019. He was a research assistant from August 2018 to June 2019. He is an LL.M. candidate at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge. He obtained a Bachelor of Laws degree from the City University of Hong Kong in 2021.
Recently, Lai retained Timothy Owen, an experienced British barrister, to lead his defense team. Owen, as one Hong Kong court recognized, is a “renowned specialist in criminal, public and human rights law, with substantial experience in cases concerning national security and freedom of speech.” He has appeared before Hong Kong courts in the past but is not admitted to the Hong Kong bar. Over the Hong Kong government’s objection, the Court of First Instance allowed Owen to represent Lai on an ad hoc basis. After having suffered a streak of losses on appeal, the government on Monday decided to seek help from the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC), which has the ultimate authority to interpret the NSL. Below, we will discuss the legal battle fought in Hong Kong courts, the government’s request for NPCSC intervention, and what to expect next.
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.
UPDATE (Nov. 8, 2022): We have posted a full English translation of Prof. Liang’s request for review.
Maternity insurance [生育保险] is one of the five programs that make up China’s social insurance system. Funded by employer contributions, maternity insurance reimburses women for pregnancy- and childbirth-related medical expenses and offers them a source of income during maternity leave. In all provinces except Guangdong, however, single women have been ineligible for maternity insurance benefits. Local legislation requires claimants to provide their marriage license or some other government-issued document available only to married couples, in effect barring single women from obtaining the benefits. In a legal battle that spanned four years, Zou Xiaoqi, a single mother from Shanghai, repeatedly challenged the city’s discriminatory policy in court but ultimately to no avail. (In late 2020, Shanghai suddenly dropped the marriage requirement, but reversed course just a few months later.)
Telecom and online fraud has grown rampant in China in the past decade. According to the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), scammers have defrauded victims of more than 35 billion RMB (~5 billion USD) in 2020 alone. In 2021, public security organs nationwide cracked over 394,000 cases of telecom and online fraud and arrested over 630,000 suspects. Meanwhile, the crime of aiding criminal activities on information networks (including telecom and online fraud) has become the third most-prosecuted crime in China, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) recently disclosed.
At the same time, fraudsters continue to upgrade their tactics and operations. They take advantage of new technologies to reach more potential victims and to evade prosecution. Relying on leaked or stolen sensitive personal information, they also target susceptible victims with precision by impersonating police officers and other government officials or by exploiting the victim’s personal circumstances. As domestic crackdown intensifies, many scammers have moved their operations overseas to regions such as northern Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. According to the SPC, as of mid-2021, more than 60% of telecom- and online-fraud cases now originate from overseas “hotspots.”
Since 2020, national criminal justice authorities, telecom regulator, and the central bank have launched multiple joint operations to crack down on the illegal trade in SIM cards as well as bank cards and other payment accounts. The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has also worked with immigration authorities to break up rings that smuggle people overseas to become scammers. In addition, the SPC, SPP, and MPS have released two jointopinions to clarify the application of related crimes and criminal procedural rules in telecom- and online-fraud cases.
The new Law Against Telecom and Online Fraud [反电信网络诈骗法], adopted by the NPC Standing Committee on September 2, is the latest official action to tackle such crimes. It supplements criminal statutes by prescribing administrative punishments for those who organize or otherwise directly participate in less serious cases of telecom and online fraud (art. 38, para. 2). The bulk of its provisions, however, focus on preventing such fraud from occurring in the first place. Below we take a close look at this new law.