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70 years on, success story of people’s congresses continues in China

The Constitution passed at the inaugural session of the NPC in 1954 states that all power in the People's Republic of China belongs to the people, and that the NPC and the local people's congresses at various levels are the organs through which the people exercise state power.

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The second plenary meeting of the second session of the 14th NPC is held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 8, 2024. (Xinhua/Liu Xu)

Ning Fenfang, a 34-year-old farmer, had spent a lot of time visiting fellow villagers in central China’s Hunan Province to gather their opinions and requests ahead of her trip to Beijing for this year’s legislative session that opened earlier this week.

Such efforts were among her duties as a deputy to the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s national legislature. Her role has also seen her devote considerable time to checking the construction of agricultural infrastructure and visiting relevant government departments to inquire about agriculture policies.

Ning has registered a cooperative specializing in large-scale planting, creating about 200 jobs for villagers. At this year’s NPC session, she submitted a suggestion on allowing agricultural insurance to cover greenhouses in southern China.

There are nearly 3,000 NPC deputies like Ning in the country. Working in a part-time capacity, they come from various backgrounds and cover a diverse cross-section of society.

70th ANNIVERSARY

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the NPC. Sitting at the pinnacle of the people’s congress system, a great creation of the Chinese people in the history of political systems, the NPC is the supreme organ of state power in China.

Since Sept. 15, 1954, when about 1,200 deputies gathered in Beijing to attend the first session of the first NPC, the people’s congress system has provided an important institutional guarantee that has allowed the Communist Party of China to lead the people in creating miracles of rapid economic development and long-term social stability.

The people’s congress system is the fundamental political system in China, serving as an important institutional vehicle for realizing whole-process people’s democracy in China.

The Constitution passed at the inaugural session of the NPC in 1954 states that all power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the people, and that the NPC and the local people’s congresses at various levels are the organs through which the people exercise state power.

Over the past 70 years, the people’s congress system has seen constant improvements, including the establishment of a commission on work related to NPC deputies under the NPC Standing Committee to improve the quality of deputies’ work, and setting up and expanding primary-level legislative outreach offices nationwide to make it more convenient for the public to reach lawmakers.

LAW-BASED GOVERNANCE

As an important constituent of China’s governance system, the people’s congress system bears great significance in pushing forward the rule of law and modernizing China’s system and capacity for governance.

China’s legislation has made considerable advances over the years.

On July 1, 1979, seven laws were adopted at the second session of the fifth NPC, including the criminal law and the law on Chinese-foreign equity joint ventures, signifying that China’s legislation had been put back on the right track in the new period of reform, opening up and socialist modernization.

In 2023, the NPC Standing Committee, a permanent body of the NPC, formulated or revised a raft of laws, including the law on ecological conservation of the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau and the law on building a barrier-free environment. Currently, the country has 300 laws in effect.

An important principle of the people’s congress system and a basic requirement of its institutional design is that the power of all state organs and their staff are subject to oversight and checks.

According to the Constitution, all administrative, supervisory, adjudicatory and procuratorial organs of the state shall be created by the people’s congresses and shall be responsible to them and subject to their oversight.

On Oct. 22, 2023, a special “examination” took place at the Great Hall of the People. For the first time, a session of the NPC Standing Committee made special inquiries regarding three reports on the same topic from the State Council, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP).

At the meeting, the leading officials of the State Council, the SPC and the SPP answered multiple questions on law enforcement and judicial work in the fields of environmental protection and resource conservation.

Last year, the 14th NPC and its Standing Committee also launched law enforcement inspections on the implementation of five laws, including the workplace safety law, the wetland conservation law and the seed law.

With these efforts, they facilitated improvements in production activities, environmental protection and building up the country’s strength in agriculture.

POOLING WISDOM

One day in late 2023, residents of Zhongxinwan residential community, along with local cadres and law experts, met to discuss a range of legal topics of common concern. Among the questions raised were “Are females entitled to the same kind of inheritance rights as males?” and “What should females do when confronted with sexual harassment in the workplace?”

Zhongxinwan is one of the residential communities under the jurisdiction of Shapingba District of Chongqing Municipality. As a primary-level legislative outreach office, the local people’s congress standing committee of Shapingba had contributed more than 1,000 pieces of suggestions on law drafts, with 86 items incorporated into a total of eight national laws as of November 2023.

This was in the same vein as the broad-based drafting process of the 1954 Constitution seven decades ago. In the course of around three months, approximately 150 million people across the country participated in the discussion of the draft, bringing nearly 1.2 million suggestions to the drafting committee.

Ever since then, releasing draft laws to the public to solicit their opinions has become an important avenue for the NPC Standing Committee to boost people’s participation in law-making and the quality of legislation.

Another prominent example is the compilation of the Civil Code. The five-year codification work saw 10 rounds of deliberation by the NPC Standing Committee, 10 rounds of public opinion solicitation, three rounds of reading and discussion by NPC deputies, plus a series of symposiums on heated issues.

Since taking office last year, the 14th NPC and its Standing Committee have solicited suggestions on draft laws 17 times, garnering over 180,000 items from the public. So far, the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee has established 45 primary-level legislative outreach offices nationwide, further improving the channel for people at the grassroots to participate in the country’s legislative work.

Connecting the Party and state with the general public, NPC deputies have always played an important role in reflecting public opinion and the public will.

“It is the duty of us deputies to always bear the people in mind, communicate with them, and solve problems for them in our work,” Ning said.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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