China’s top legislature opens week-long session

 

 

The 10th meeting of China’s 12th National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee is held

in Beijing on August 25, 2014.   Photo by Liu Weibing 

 

Zhang Dejiang (1st from right), chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s

Congress (NPC), presides over the 10th meeting of the 12th NPC Standing Committee in Beijing

on August 25, 2014.   Photo by Liu Weibing

 

 

 

 

 

 

China’s top legislature

opens week-long session

 

 

 

By Fu Shuangqi and Cui Qingxin

 

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, opened its bi-monthly session on Monday of August 25 with a dozen important bills under review.

The opening meeting of the seven-day session was presided over by Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee.

Lawmakers started discussions with a report from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on whether to revise election methods for Hong Kong SAR’s chief executive in 2017 and its Legislative Council in 2016.

This is the second step for Hong Kong’s electoral reform. Hong Kong plans to introduce universal suffrage in the election of chief executive in 2017.

Four bills were tabled for their first reading. They include the draft revisions to the Legislation Law, the Advertisement Law and the National Security Law.

The bill on Legislation Law expands the number of Chinese cities having their legislative powers from 49 to 282.

The draft revision to the National Security Law suggests changing the law’s title to the Counterespionage Law and adding more provisions on this line of work.

Lawmakers also read a bill regarding minor revisions to five laws facilitating the central government’s ability to cancel or decentralize administrative approvals. It was the first time the bill had been reviewed.

In January, the State Council, or China’s cabinet, canceled and decentralized a number of administrative approvals. Some of which cannot happen without revision of laws.

The bill suggests changing provisions for laws pertaining to insurance, securities, registered accountants, government purchase and meteorological services.

For instance, the bill removes a provision that asks actuaries to obtain a qualification from the government insurance regulator. It also authorizes provincial governments to punish those undermining the safety of meteorological facilities.

Three bills were submitted to lawmakers for additional readings. The draft amendment to the Budget Law was submitted for its fourth reading while the bill to revise the Workplace Safety Law and one to revise the Administrative Procedure Law were for the second reading.

Lawmakers also discussed two draft resolutions, one about setting September 30 as Martyrs’ Day and the other to set up special courts for intellectual property rights in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 China clarifies citizens’ rights to sue government

By Cheng Zhuo

A bill that would make it easier for citizens to bring court cases against the government went up for a second review on Monday of August 25.

An amendment that would broaden actionable cases against the government beyond the current restriction of “specific administrative acts” was put forth before the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on the first day of their bimonthly review meeting.

The draft amendment was put forth to officials involved with Administrative Procedure Law.

Currently, citizens, companies and other organizations can only file suits against “specific administrative acts” by administrative agencies or personnel which they believe to have infringed their rights.

As Articles 11 and 12 explicitly list which kind of acts that are actionable, the amendment removes the word “specific,” which sometimes is used by courts to throw out cases.

The extra restriction is one of the biggest roadblocks for citizens to sue the government.

According to a survey by Xiu Fujin, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, only 35.19 percent of cases filed against government agencies were accepted by courts in 2012.

Jiang Ming’an, professor of the Peking University, advised further easing of restrictions for such lawsuits.

Currently, courts can only punish an administrative act when it is deemed illegal. The draft allows acts that are “evidently unreasonable”.

The draft also compels representatives of the administrations concerned to personally appear before the court. Currently, most defendants simply ask their lawyers to represent them in court, which often does little to help settle the dispute.

“Having them appear in court will also effectively promote the officials’ awareness of the rule of law,” Jiang said.

Another suggested change will see broadened responsibility, with the original department in question and the administration that reviewed the case listed as joint defendants. According to current law, an administrative agency that reviews another agency’s actions will only be listed as a defendant if they change their original decision.

In the past, such stipulations have resulted in a reluctance to change controversial decisions to avoid being dragged into legal battles. In some situations, it has rendered the administrative review system ineffective.

The draft also extends time limits for hearings and how long plaintiffs have before filing suits.

The 1990 Administrative Procedure Law is a major guarantee for the citizens’ right to pursue the government through the courts.

Because using administrative power in accordance with law is a key requirement in the rule of law, the draft amendment, which streamlines the administrative litigation procedures, is also expected to promote it, Jiang said.

 

 

 

 

 

 China’s top legislature starts discussing HK electoral reform

By Li Zhihui

Hong Kong’s electoral reform began its second stage on Monday of August 25 with the country’s top legislature discussing whether to revise election methods for Hong Kong’s chief executive and legislature.

The first step to reform began when Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying submitted a report to the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee in July examining whether to revise election methods for Hong Kong SAR’s chief executive in 2017 and its Legislative Council in 2016.

Lawmakers are now examining the report at the bi-monthly session of the NPC Standing Committee which lasts from Monday to Sunday.

The report is based on the results of a public consultation by the Hong Kong SAR government from Dec. 4 last year to May 3.

The current chief executive was elected by an election committee in 2012. Hong Kong plans to introduce universal suffrage in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 More Chinese cities to get legislative powers

By Ren Ke

More Chinese cities will be given legislative powers, according to a draft amendment to the 2000 Legislation Law delivered to the country’s top legislature for deliberation on Monday of August 25.

All cities with subordinate districts will be allowed to make laws in accordance with their local conditions, according to the amendment delivered for its first reading during the current bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC).

At present, of 282 cities with subordinate districts, only 49 have legislation powers: 27 capitals of provincial regions, four special economic zones and 18 big cities approved by the State Council.

Li Shishi, director of the NPC Standing Committee’s Legal Affairs Commission, said Monday that all other cities with subordinate districts will be allowed to make local laws and regulations on construction, sanitation, the environment, etc. in a positive and steady manner and in accordance with local conditions.

The draft makes improving legislative quality a basic requirements of the work, saying that rules should be clear, concrete, executable and operable.

“Improving the quality of legislation is the principal objective,” said Li.

The draft also strengthens the leading role of people’s congresses in legislation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Chinese lawmakers mull stronger counterespionage focus

By Fu Shuangqi

Chinese lawmakers are considering renaming the National Security Law with more provisions for counterespionage.

A bill submitted for first reading at the bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which will run through Monday to Sunday, suggests changing the title to the Counterespionage Law.

The country’s counterespionage agencies currently face new circumstances and challenges and need stronger support from the legislation, said Geng Huichang, minister of national security, when explaining the bill to lawmakers.

The current law mainly regulates the work of the country’s national security agencies, whose major duty is counterespionage.

The bill introduces new regulations about counterespionage work that has been proven effective in practice but not been written into the current law. It also rewrites articles that are not in line with other laws that have been revised in recent years, including the Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law.

Foreign organizations and individuals who conduct espionage activities, or who instigate and sponsor others to do it, will be punished, as will domestic organizations and individuals who spy on the country for foreign organizations and individuals, the bill proposes.

It grants national security agencies the authority to ask an organization or individual to stop or change their activities that are considered harmful to national security. If they refuse or fail to do so, the agencies will be entitled to seal or seize related properties.

The agencies are also entitled to seal and seize any device, money, venue, supplies and other properties that are related to espionage activities, according to the bill.

They will be either confiscated by national security agencies or handed over to judicial departments.

The illegal income and properties gained through knowingly hiding and fencing properties related to espionage will be confiscated, according to the bill.

The current national security law has not been revised since it took effect in 1993.

At the first meeting of the central national security commission in April, President Xi Jinping advocated an “overall national security outlook.”

Xi stressed that the challenges China faces in maintaining national security today are more diverse than they have ever been, as it has seen complicated internal and external situations.

He talked up a “national security path with Chinese characteristics,” the major goal of which is to protect the population. Maintaining political and economic security are essential to this goal while protecting military, cultural and social security are important means, according to the president.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 China eyes wider ban of tobacco ads

By Zuo Yuanfeng and Hu Hao

China’s top legislature has begun reviewing a draft amendment to the 20-year-old Advertisement Law that aims to ban tobacco advertisements in more public venues and online.

“Tobacco advertisements directly or indirectly transmitted via radio, film, television, newspaper, magazines, books, audio and visual products, electronic publications, telecommunication networks and the Internet are banned,” said the draft amendment submitted to lawmakers on Monday.

Meanwhile, the draft includes more specific public venues where tobacco ads would be banned, such as libraries, cultural centers, museums, parks, waiting rooms, theaters, meeting halls, sports auditoriums, and the vicinities of hospitals and schools.

“Outdoor tobacco advertisements are forbidden,” it said.

The bill reflects a heated anti-smoking battle in the country. In June, academics, health and legal professionals and tobacco control experts jointly signed a letter to the national legislative body, urging them to fully outlaw tobacco advertising.

In 2003, China signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It requires signatories to “comprehensively ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.”

If the draft is passed, showing actual smoking or drinking in ads will be prohibited, as will images of minors, and promotion of binge drinking. Adverts will not be allowed to imply that smoking and drinking have positive effects such as “relieving anxiety.”

Tabled to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress for the first reading at its bi-monthly session this week, the amendment “further regulates advertising, boosts the development of the advertising industry and protects consumers,” according to an explanatory document for the lawmakers.

However, while touting the draft as “huge progress” on tobacco control, Liang Xiaofeng, vice director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that it still falls short of a comprehensive ban of tobacco adverts, sales and sponsorships.

As the world’s largest tobacco maker and consumer, China has more than 300 million smokers and another 740 million people exposed to second-hand smoke.

According to a report released by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in May, 6.9 percent of Chinese junior school students smoke and 48.5 percent of students between 13 and 15 years old had seen a tobacco advertisement in the previous month. In a survey conducted among children aged five and six, 85 percent could identify at least one cigarette brand.

“The draft amendment lists various mediums where tobacco ads are banned, but an enumerative approach will never cover all advert carriers, and the ban will soon be overcome by new forms of advertisements,” said Wu Yiqun, vice director of Think Tank Research Center for Health Development, a non-governmental anti-smoking group.

Places that have considerable foot traffic but are unmentioned in the ban include supermarkets, malls, Internet cafes and public toilets.

Wu called for “banning all forms of tobacco advertisements… anytime, anywhere.”

 

SHIELD FOR CONSUMERS’ INTERESTS

 

The draft carries harsher punishment for giving false information, including functions, ingredients, expiration dates and prices of advertised products or services.

Clients, makers and publishers of false adverts will be fined three to five times the advertising fees, the draft proposes, raising the minimum from the equal of the advertising’s worth in the current law. In the case of the absence of an exact advertising fee, a situation untouched in the current law, parties will be fined between 200,000 yuan (32,500 U.S. dollars) and one million yuan.

Those promoting or selling banned products or services will pay five to 10 times the advertising fees as punishment if they commit such violations more than three times within two years. When no benchmark fees are available, fines will range from one to two million yuan.

All parties will be suspended from doing businesses, and in severe cases, striped of business licenses if the draft is passed.

According to a new article, figures appearing in advertisements, many of whom are celebrities with public influence, should not attest to the functions or qualities of products or services they haven’t used.

Meanwhile, adverts for drugs, medical equipment and health food should not use health experts or patients to claim the effects of the products, and exaggerations or guarantees on such effects are off-limits.

The draft also addresses spam, a major annoyance for phone users, by stipulating that no adverts should be sent to households, vehicles or via phones and emails without the recipients’ consent.

A 2013 report revealed that more than 200 billion junk messages were sent to Chinese phone users in the first half of 2013, and a sample analysis found that 59 percent of them were advertisements.

According to the draft, operators of telecommunication businesses and Internet service providers have the obligation to withdraw services for those sending illegal ad messages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Chinese lawmakers consider establishing special IPR courts

By Cheng Zhuo and Luo Sha

Chinese lawmakers on Monday began reviewing a draft decision on establishing special courts to hear cases related to intellectual property rights (IPR).

The draft has been tabled for deliberation at the bimonthly meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature.

According to the draft, such courts will be set up in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, where many IPR-related lawsuits are filed.

Once established, the courts will focus largely on civil and administrative lawsuits regarding patents, new plant varieties, integrated circuit layout designs and technological knowledge, said Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), in a report to legislators about the draft.

These cases play an important part in advancing the country’s technical innovation and economic development, and they require more skilled judges and more professional trials, Zhou explained.

The courts will also handle appellate cases regarding other IPR-related matters, such as copyright and trademark disputes, according to the draft.

These IPR courts will be equivalent to local intermediate courts, answering to the standing committees of their local municipal people’s congresses.

They will also be under the supervision of local procuratorates and superior courts, according to Zhou’s report.

The jurisdiction of the courts will not be confined to cases in their localities but will be defined by the SPC, Zhou said.

According to the draft, presidents, vice presidents and chief judges of these courts will be appointed by local legislatures.

Moreover, Zhou said procedural rules, evidence rules and litigation preservation measures will be improved to provide better IPR protection, and the courts will establish a professional forensic investigation system to determine technical facts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Rural children vulnerable to accidents, crime: report

By Cheng Zhuo

About 80 percent of unnatural deaths among minors in China occur in rural areas, according to a report submitted to China’s top legislature on Monday of August 25.

The report issued at the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) calls for an improved welfare system for under 18s and advises the government to set up a special child protection agency.

Prosecutors in central China’s Henan Province told researchers for the report that more than 60 percent of attacks on juveniles there are against “left-behind” children — kids left unattended by rural parents who have left their homes for work in big cities — as well as vagrant children in cities.

About 55,000 minors die in accidents each year, with drowning and traffic accident the biggest causes, according to the report, which also noted the prevalence of criminal offenses targeting children, such as rape, molestation, trafficking, abuse and abandonment, as well as organizing child beggars.

Meanwhile, juvenile drug use is on the rise. The number of drug-addicted minors in 2013 surged 26 percent from the previous year, said the report.

From the start of 2011 to the end of 2013, Chinese courts concluded the trials of 12,281 cases of crime against minors and 14,349 people were convicted and punished.

A special campaign to crack down on child trafficking also rescued 52,000 children last year, according to the report

It was based on analysis of the findings teams sent out by the NPC Standing Committee to inspect enforcement of China’s minor protection laws.

The report also urged more efforts by administrative and judicial organs, parents and communities to protect children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

•  China planning national Martyrs’ Day

By Li Zhihui

China is planning to set September 30 as Martyrs’ Day to commemorate those who lost their lives fighting for national independence and prosperity.

National commemoration activities will be held on the date, according to a draft bill submitted for discussion at the ongoing bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, to be held from Monday to Sunday.

The public have increasingly called for such a date to be set, said Li Liguo, minister of civil affairs, at the session.

The top legislature’s setting the date will be significant to fostering patriotism and bolstering “core socialist values” among the public, he said.

The date is one day before China’s National Day, when Chinese leaders lay flowers at the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square, downtown Beijing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

•  China mulls higher fines for workplace accidents

By Li Zhihui

Chinese lawmakers are considering imposing fines of up to 5 million yuan (810,000 U.S. dollars) on enterprises involved in serious workplace accidents.

Managers in charge of such enterprises who are found to have failed in their duty to ensure safety will also be fined between 30 and 80 percent of their annual income, under a draft amendment to the Workplace Safety Law tabled for second reading in China’s congress on Monday.

This is a massive increase compared with the current law, under which managers face fines between 20,000 yuan and 200,000 yuan.

Currently, fines for enterprises violating the law are no more than 100,000 yuan or below five times the income earned from illegal operation.

The bill will be considered at the bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), to be held from Monday to Sunday.

It is proposed that managers responsible for “serious” and “extremely serious” accidents will be banned from serving as principals in enterprises in the same industry.

The regulation on work safety issued by the State Council in 2007 defines “serious accidents” as those causing 10 to 30 deaths, 50 to 100 serious injuries, or direct economic losses of between 50 and 100 million yuan.

It identifies “extremely serious accidents” as those that kill more than 30 people, seriously injure 100, or result in over 100 million yuan in direct economic losses.

The Workplace Safety Law, which took effect in 2002, has helped reduce malpractice, but many problems still need to be addressed, said Yang Dongliang, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, at an NPC session during the first reading of the bill in February.

The administration investigated 44 serious workplace accidents last year and about 300 people were prosecuted for violating workplace safety laws.

Light punishment and lack of supervision are believed to be among the major reasons for the negligence behind frequent accidents.

At Monday’s session, the draft amendment added articles that enhance the supervision power of work safety watchdogs and local governments, especially those at township level. Most work safety accidents occur in small enterprises located in rural towns instead of large cities.

“Governments of the township level should strengthen their leadership on work safety,” the draft reads.

Lawmakers have solicited opinions from the public as well as experts and government departments to improve the draft bill, said Zhang Mingqi, vice director of the Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee.

“After discussion and revision, the draft amendment is relatively ripe,” he added.

During the first reading in February, lawmakers added articles to ensure employers are aware of their responsibilities, improve supervision and tighten punishment for offenders.

The first draft revision also increased fines for a number of types of malpractice. For instance, for employers who fail to provide workplace safety training for employees and do not correct wrongdoing after being required to do so, the bill raises the fine from a maximum 20,000 yuan (3,225 U.S. dollars) to between 50,000 and 100,000 yuan.

The first draft also asked work safety regulators to set up a blacklist to deter big companies that may not care about large fines. Information on serious offenders could be published and shared with regulators of investment, land use and securities as well as banks.

Also, it allowed the regulator to force factories to suspend operation by cutting off their power supply, if their workplace is considered highly unsafe and likely to cause accidents.

The second draft added a clause that requires timely removal of such measures after factories have cleared accident risks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 NEW POST  |  Updated on August 26, 2014

 

 

 Chinese lawmakers stress Basic Law in HK electoral reform

 

By Li Zhihui and Cui Qingxin

 

The electoral reform set for 2017 in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) must adhere to Basic Law and regional realities, legislators said oon Tuesday of August 26.

Hong Kong’s universal suffrage must be promoted prudently and steadily as it will be a historic piece of Hong Kong’s democracy and a significant change in its political system.

It involves national sovereignty, security and development, legislators said during the bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, currently underway in Beijing.

Committee members began examining a report from HKSAR Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Monday, discussing whether to revise election methods for the region’s chief executive in 2017 and its Legislative Council in 2016.

They hailed Leung’s report as positive, responsible and pragmatic as it summarizes thoroughly the opinions expressed by different sections of Hong Kong’s communities during a public consultation by the HKSAR government from Dec. 4 last year to May 3.

The current chief executive was elected by a committee in 2012. Hong Kong plans to introduce universal suffrage, the right for citizens to vote, during the next election in 2017.

Basic Law requires candidates for the HKSAR Chief Executive be nominated by a “broadly representative” committee.

According to the report, disputes remain in Hong Kong on core questions including how the nomination committee will be formed and other procedures for deciding candidates.

Some proposals were obvious violations of Basic Law, lawmakers said.

The NPC Standing Committee should exercise power granted by the Constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong to make decisions on these core questions in order to promote consensus of the Hong Kong residents and ensure smooth implementation of the new electoral process in 2017.

The discussion was attended by Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee.

On Tuesday’s meeting, lawmakers also deliberated a bill to revise the country’s Budget Law and suggested putting it to vote.

A majority of lawmakers said they were content with the current version of the bill, which was up for its fourth reading since December 2011.

The latest version responds to the most controversial issues for the country’s budget management, including problems brought forth by the public.

The bill strengthened transparency, supervision and the ability to make and implement budgets. It will play an important role in promoting the country’s reform, reviewers said.

One of the most controversial issues is local government bonds. The current law bans local governments from issuing bonds, but in practice local governments have sought backdoors to raise funds, mostly for infrastructure. The money has remained unsupervised.

To tackle this loophole, the bill gives the go ahead for bond sales by provincial-level governments but places them under strict conditions. It not only restricts the amount of bonds but also regulates how to issue and use the funds.

To improve transparency, the bill adds detailed provisions on publishing budget reports and improving supervision by lawmakers as well as the public.

It asks government finance departments to publish their budgets and final account reports within 20 days after they are adopted by the legislature. It also gives the public access to information about local government debts, purchases, budgets and audits.

The bill requires lawmakers to examine major expense items and big investments in budget reports as well as inspect the development and efficiency of such projects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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