Editor’s Note (Mar. 16, 2023): We have updated this post in accordance with the final text of the amendments adopted on March 13. The original version of this post is archived here.
For the ninth year in a row, China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) considered and adopted legislation at its annual session earlier this month. This year’s bill was amendments to the Legislation Law [立法法] (Bill), previously reviewed in October and December 2022. The Legislation Law is an important statute with semi-constitutional status. It serves three principal purposes: it demarcates the legislative authority of various state institutions; regulates (to varying extent) their legislative procedures; and prescribes a hierarchy of legal norms, along with the attendant mechanism to enforce that hierarchy, called “recording and review” [备案审查].
The Bill has made an array of amendments to provisions in all three areas. In this post, we will offer a relatively thorough discussion of the Bill, proceeding in the order of legislative authority, procedure, and hierarchy. In each section below, we will discuss more important amendments in the order they appear in the Bill, and briefly summarize minor ones at the end of the section. We will not mention amendments that simply repeat the provisions of other laws. All in-line citations are to the Legislation Law as amended by the Bill.
On January 28, 2023, the Legislative Affairs Commission (LAC) of the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) released one of the “legal inquiry responses” [法律询问答复] it had issued during the past year. As discussed in depth here, such responses clarify the applicable law in real-world scenarios at the request of central governmental bodies or provincial legislatures. They are not universally binding, but are considered highly persuasive—hence a form of “soft law”—because of the LAC’s pivotal role in lawmaking.
The sole response released on Saturday concerns the division of legislative powers between central and local authorities. In May 2022, an unnamed provincial legislature wrote to the LAC that the minors protection legislation it was reviewing would touch on (1) guardianship of minors, and that it was also mulling legislation on (2) intellectual property protections for porcelain and (3) personal bankruptcy. May it legislate on those matters, it asked, or are they within the national legislature’s exclusive purview?
UPDATE (Dec. 27, 2022): The official readout of the session’s first meeting reveals that the NPCSC is also reviewing a draft amendment to the Foreign Trade Law [对外贸易法] to codify a pilot administrative reform that recently expired on December 1. The readout also shows that the State Council has requested an interpretation of “relevant articles” of the Hong Kong National Security Law, without elaborating. We expect both to pass on Friday. Finally, it appears that the draft revision to the Enterprise Bankruptcy Law [企业破产法] has been removed from this session’s agenda.
Last Friday, the Council of Chairpersons decided to convene the 38th and second-to-last session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) from December 27 to 30. The session’s tentative agenda includes fifteen bills. The Hong Kong government’s requested interpretation of the Hong Kong National Security Law, however, is not among them. But as we have explained, the NPCSC may hide the existence of a bill until after its adoption, so it could still consider an interpretation at the upcoming session. Below we briefly preview the bills slated for review.
Editor’s Note (Feb. 28, 2023): The draft amendments to the Legislation Law went through a second review in December 2022. Our overview of the second draft is available here. The provisions discussed in this post have not been changed.
Last month, China’s national legislature, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC), reviewed draft amendments to the Legislation Law [立法法] (Draft), an important statute with semi-constitutional status. The Law, in sum, has three functions: it demarcates the authority of various law/rule-making bodies; regulates (to varying extent) their legislative procedures (in particular those of the national legislature); and prescribes a hierarchy of legal norms, along with attendant rules on how to apply conflicting norms and mechanisms for resolving such conflicts (the so-called “recording and review” [备案审查] process). Today, to engage with China’s legal developments—whether as part of research, commentary, reporting, advocacy, or doing business—it is increasingly crucial to understand the type of legislative power a governmental body has and the process whereby it issues binding rules.
The Draft would bring about changes in all three areas: authority, procedure, and hierarchy. Some of the changes are technical, some are substantive but not ground-breaking, others are confusing and require clarification, while a few do deserve attention now, especially from those interested in submitting comments (the comments period closes on November 29). Below we highlight two that fall in the last category. As the Draft may undergo moderate to substantial revisions, we will publish a more thorough summary after its second review, expected in December. A final review by the full NPC is expected next March.
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.
Editor’s Note (Sept. 2, 2020): This post is NOT up to date and has been superseded by a more recent introduction to “recording and review,” which discusses the latest governing rules.
On October 18, 2017, halfway through his mind-numbing three-hour report to the Communist Party’s 19th National Congress, President Xi Jinping called for “advancing the work of constitutional review” [推进合宪性审查工作]. We then noted, and Chinese media later confirmed, that it was the first time such expression appeared in Party documents. While the expression might be novel, the concept of constitutional review is not—it has been an inherent part of “recording and review” (“R&R”) [备案审查] since at least 1982. For purposes of our discussion, R&R is a process whereby various governmental entities with lawmaking powers record the legislation they enact with the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC), and the NPCSC then, through several established mechanisms, review such legislation for potential violations of the Constitution and national laws and take appropriate actions. The primary goal is to ensure uniformity in the hierarchical legal system.
Apologies to our readers for the delay in publishing Part 2.
Roughly two years ago, the National People’s Congress (NPC) approved an amendment to the Legislation Law (Amendment), granting the right to enact local regulations to 273 prefecture-level cities and autonomous prefectures (collectively, cities) across China. This post continues Part 1 with analysis of the local regulations enacted by (some of) the 273 cities since the passage of the Amendment. Like Part 1, this post is based on information (current through December 2016) provided by the NPCSC Legislative Affairs Commission (NPCSC LAC).
On March 15, 2015, the National People’s Congress passed an amendment to the Legislation Law (Amendment), which, among other things, granted legislative powers1 to hundreds of cities2 across China. In the almost two years since, the relevant standing committees of provincial-level people’s congresses (provincial PCSCs) have been busy deciding on when the eligible cities within their jurisdictions may start exercising legislative powers—a procedure mandated by the Amendment. As for those cities, many have taken the first step to experiment their the new powers by enacting local legislations.
Last week, the Constitutionalism of China (中国宪政网) published on its WeChat account two tables provided by the NPCSC Legislative Affairs Commission on the actions taken by the provincial PCSCs and the eligible cities since the Amendment’s passage.
Here, in Part 1 of a two-part series, we’ll present our analysis of the first table, along with additional research done based on those data. The second table will be the topic for Part 2.
We’ll begin this post with some background information and a brief introduction to the relevant part of the Amendment.
As was revealed late last Monday, the tentative agenda of the current NPCSC session (which we discussed in the last post) had undergone several changes. The most notable was a new draft law named National Intelligence Law. The press release of the first meeting of the 25th Session contained the following short paragraph on this draft law:
In order to strengthen and safeguard national intelligence efforts, and to defend national security and interests, the State Council submitted a draft National Intelligence Law for deliberation. Entrusted by the State Council, CHEN Wenqing, the Minister of State Security, made an explanation.
What was unusual, however, was the complete lack of media coverage of this law in the four days since. State media did not report on the content of the law, nor on the NPCSC members’ discussion of the law yesterday. While national security legislations are “sensitive” in nature, and their media coverage is normally tightly controlled, the absence of any report is still a deviation from the usual course of action.