Editor’s Note: On Thursday, March 11, the NPC approved the two amendments discussed in this post; both have taken effect on March 12. We have updated this post consistent the amendments’ final texts, which are accessible from the respective bill pages.
The National People’s Congress (NPC) concluded its 2021 session on Thursday, March 11. It is the seventh year in a row—the second-longest streak post-1978 (after 1988–1997)—that the NPC reviews legislation at its annual plenary session. This year, besides a decision to overhaul Hong Kong’s electoral system, the NPC also reviewed and approved amendments to its own governing laws: the NPC Organic Law [全国人民代表大会组织法] and the NPC Rules of Procedure [全国人民代表大会议事规则]. The former outlines the NPC’s organizational structure and prescribes the functions of its various components, whereas the latter lays out the procedures for conducting business in the full NPC.
Before this week, neither law had ever been updated. The NPC Organic Law was enacted on December 10, 1982, the same day as China’s current Constitution, and the NPC Rules of Procedure seven years later, in April 1989. The amendments thus focus heavily on codifying the changes in the NPC’s organization and practice in the last several decades. They also seek to modernize the two laws’ structures, delete irrelevant and duplicative provisions more suitable for other laws, and ensure that they are consistent with newer statutes, including the 1994 Budget Law [预算法] (amended in 2014 and 2018), 2000 Legislation Law [立法法] (amended in 2015), 2006 Oversight Law [各级人民代表大会常务委员会监督法], and 2018 Supervision Law [监察法].
As a result, few provisions in the amendments are truly novel, even though their texts span over dozens of pages. In this explainer, we will dissect the two amendments and sort out “new” provisions—which in fact will lead to changes in practice—from those that will not. The NPC Organic Law is abbreviated as “OL” below, and the NPC Rules of Procedure as “ROP.” Citations are to the two laws as amended, not to the amendments.
English translations will be provided if and when available. All explanatory documents are in Chinese. The NPCSC also reviewed a second draft of the Coast Guard Law [海警法], a draft Supervisors Law [监察官法], and a draft revision to the Military Service Law [兵役法] at last week’s session, but did not also release them for public comments today.
UPDATE (Dec. 21, 2020): According to an NPCSC spokesperson, the NPCSC will continue deliberating the draft revision to the Rural Revitalization Promotion Law and the draft Coast Guard law in 2021. These two bills thus will not pass at this NPCSC session.
On Friday, November 27, the Council of Chairpersons took the unusual step of announcing the next NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) session almost a month in advance. It decided that the 13th NPCSC will convene for its 24th session from December 22 and 26 and tentatively placed a whopping 18 legislative bills on the agenda, including 16 draft laws and 2 draft decisions. There is a little something for everyone: the bills touch on issues ranging from criminal justice to military affairs, from trade and intellectual property to maritime issues. A quick preview of the session follows.
UPDATE (July 31, 2020): Today, the Hong Kong Chief Executive officially announced the postponement of the Legislative Council elections to next fall. The central government said in a statement that it would seek a decision by the NPCSC on the one-year vacancy of the Legislative Council after its current term expires on September 30.
We did not wake up today expecting to write this blogpost, yet here we are. On Wednesday, July 29, the Council of Chairpersons decided to convene the 21st session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC)—much to our surprise—from August 8 to 11. For the past three terms, the NPCSC’s regular sessions began only during the last ten days of each month in which it was scheduled to meet (with one exception). And this upcoming session bears all the indications of a regular (August) session: its four-day length, a full batch of bills to review, and the State Council’s mid-year reports on budget implementation and economic development (which are heard in August).