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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The NPCSC Legislative Affairs Commission and Its “Invisible Legislators”

Updated on June 21, 2021 by Changhao Wei & Taige Hu.

Originally published on June 25, 2018. Written by Shuhao Fan. Edited by Changhao Wei & Xiaoyuan Zhang.

Zang Tiewei, head of the LAC’s Research Office and co-spokesperson, at the LAC’s first press conference on August 21, 2019.

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 legislature. Consisting primarily of unelected and unidentified members, the LAC works mostly behind closed doors, although recently it has become much more visible in the public eye. 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.[1] 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].[2] Some worry that they may have usurped the powers of elected NPCSC members, thus becoming de facto legislators.[3] Below, we provide an overview of the LAC—an essential yet peculiar institution under the NPCSC—and its roles in the legislative process.

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Scholarship Highlight: Haste and Delay in the Chinese Legislative System

Professor Rory Truex of Princeton University has kindly permitted me to publish the abstract of his recent article, Authoritarian Gridlock? Understanding Delay in the Chinese Legislative System, as the second part of this Blog’s Scholarship Highlight series, which surveys academic scholarship relating to the NPC. This article will appear in a future print issue of the Comparative Legal Studies and is now available online at this link (subscription required). [Disclosure: I provided research assistance to Rory on this article.]

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Scholarship Highlight: Law Enforcement Inspections—The NPCSC’s Weapon to Ensure Law-Based Administration?

Editor’s Note: This article was published in May 2017, and the information it contains may be outdated.

The agenda of the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) session last month included an inconspicuous item: reviewing the State Council’s response to the report on the law enforcement inspection of the Environmental Protection Law; this report was previously discussed by the NPCSC last November.

What is an law enforcement inspection (执法检查)? Here, taking the opportunity of the first edition of our new, non-regular series, Scholarship Highlight, we present an overview of this supervisory measure of the NPCSC that is sometimes overlooked. We will also take a closer look at a recent example mentioned above: the law enforcement inspection of the Environmental Protection Law last year. Through this post, we wish to explore whether the NPCSC’s law enforcement inspections can act to further “law-based administration” (依法行政) by the State Council.

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