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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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 We have previously written a profile of the Commission (now a bit outdated).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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