2020 Legal Inquiry Responses: Marriage Age for Ethnic Minorities, Rescheduling Local People’s Congress Elections & More

Photo by Andy Wong (Associated Press), via NYT

On April 1, the NPC Standing Committee’s Legislative Affairs Commission (Commission) made public six of its “responses to legal inquiries” [法律询问答复] from 2020. It last released a batch of such responses from 2018 and 2019 in September 2020, after a thirteen-year hiatus. As we wrote then, these responses to legal inquiries can be considered a form of “soft law”: they answer other governmental bodies’ requests to clarify the applicable law in real-world scenarios and can function like the NPC Standing Committee’s legislative interpretations. The inquiring governmental bodies tend to follow the responses, but they do not bind anyone else. Still, they are considered highly persuasive because of the Commission’s pivotal role in lawmaking. The responses released on Thursday touched on a few different subjects: postponing local legislative sessions due to Covid-19, governance of for-profit private schools, ethnic autonomous regions’ legislative authority, terms of supervision commissions, and rescheduling elections for local people’s congresses. We will summarize and explain these Q&As below.

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NPC Launches Official Chinese Law Database: A Guide & Review

The National People’s Congress (NPC) on Wednesday, February 24 formally launched a database of Chinese legal authorities: the National Database of Laws and Regulations [国家法律法规数据库]. The Database has been years in the making. According to the Legal Daily, work on it started in November 2017 and was scheduled to complete by end of 2018. Yet it ended up taking a lot longer—and as we will discuss below, the Database still has had a bumpy start. In this post, we will introduce the types of legal authorities currently available in the Database. We will then discuss its three main functions: browsing, search, and download. And we will end with some concluding thoughts on the Database and look ahead to its future versions. The bottom line: the Database in its current form will not be our go-to platform for looking up Chinese legal documents.

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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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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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NPCSC Now Researching Expansion of Constitutional Review

In a recent exclusive interview with the Legal Daily, LIANG Ying (梁鹰), director of the Office for Recording and Reviewing Regulations under the Legislative Affairs Commission (LAC) of the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC), revealed that authorities are now contemplating significant expansion of the scope of constitutional review (合宪性审查), following the Communist Party’s decision to “advance constitutional review” at its 19th Congress. The theoretical and practical feasibility of the reforms that Liang mentioned was still under research. And it is unknown at this point whether, or when, those proposed reforms would be implemented. But the fact that the authorities have chosen to disclose them indicates similar reforms will be eventually implemented. This interview is thus worth paying close attention to. Some unorganized thoughts follow the summary of the interview. All emphases below are ours.

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State Council Releases Legislative Plan for 2017

The State Council on Monday released its legislative plan for 2017 (2017 Plan). Because of this Blog’s focus, this post will only take a look at those projects in the 2017 Plan that will require the approval of the National People’s Congress (NPC) or its Standing Committee (NPCSC)—that is, proposed new laws or revisions of existing laws. For other projects (which concern administrative regulations), please refer to the linked plan itself.

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China to Overhaul Anti-Corruption System (UPDATED)

Update (Nov. 6, 2017): For more information on the supervision commissions, please see this post. The first draft of the Supervision Law (监察法) is available here.


Nov. 25 Update: As reported by Xinhua, Wang Qishan, who now heads the new Central Leading Group for Pilot Work on Deepening Reform of the State Supervision System, said today that the Party will ask the NPCSC for an authorization before formally proceeding with the pilot projects. He also confirmed that the new supervision commissions will be composed of the soon-to-be-former administrative departments of supervision and corruption prevention, and also of the subdivisions of the procuratorates that investigate official duty crimes. The first step of the pilots, according to Wang, is to transfer those subdivisions from the procuratorates to the supervision commissions. He also hinted that a State Supervision Law will be adopted in the future, and which will most likely replace the current Administrative Supervision Law.


On November 7, as your author observed, the NPCSC removed the head of the Ministry of Supervision but left the position open. News from later that day explained the unusual move: The Communist Party plans to reform the state supervision system (国家监察体制) and has deployed pilot projects in Beijing, Shanxi, and Zhejiang. It seems that the Ministry of Supervision will in a few years become history. Below, this post will introduce the specifics of the reform that have since been made public, and will discuss how the reform will concern the NPC and lower-level people’s congresses.

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