Amending Legislation Law necessary and reasonable

The nation’s ongoing two sessions mark a perfect time to update China’s Legislation Law. The law was introduced in 2000 and amended once in 2015, prior to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which was held in October 2022 and unveiled strategic plans and a blueprint to embark on a new era to build a modern socialist country. Updating the law now would enable local governments in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to collaborate more closely under coordinated laws and directives.

As I have mentioned during the two sessions, the amendment would help ensure that the drafting and updating of laws in China — the world’s second-largest economy and with a population of 1.4 billion — will be updated and enacted in a more modern, coherent, forward-looking and systematic way that is fully consistent with the people’s shared values as set out in our Constitution, and will be enacted in ways that fully take into account the wisdom, expectations and views of the general population through more formalized channels and methods that embrace “whole-process people’s democracy”. 

As enshrined in the country’s Constitution, and apparent from the first word of the “People’s Republic of China”, the founding fathers of the Communist Party of China, which has a constitutional duty to lead other political parties in modern China, strongly believes in putting people first. Members of the National People’s Congress are the people’s elected representatives, and we exercise our constitutional duties for the people. In China, “whole-process people’s democracy” means not only that the people’s views should be heard in elections, but also that the exercise of the people’s representatives’ powers must be for the greater good of the people (not so much for the military complex, guns or other well-funded lobbying groups that plague the development of some other countries). So the amendments — which would formalize the need for the legislative process to comply with the Constitution, formalize channels to hear from the people and build consensus, and follow the core principles to advance the society in the right direction — make compelling sense.  

A good example of listening to the people during the law drafting process is when we prepared and enacted the Civil Code, which organized into one place about 20 laws to make them internally consistent, people-centric and easy to read and follow for most things one would encounter in life. Consultations were conducted through many channels, with over 100,000 suggestions received from the population, many of which were submitted through the online NPC public portal. Suggestions were carefully considered, duly respected and taken on board when formulating the law. 

The amendments — which would formalize the need for the legislative process to comply with the Constitution, formalize channels to hear from the people and build consensus, and follow the core principles to advance the society in the right direction — make compelling sense

Consensus building, respect for one another, rule of law based on codified and transparent law statutes, the spread of Confucian teachings and other moral and ethical standards guided by over 5,000 years of rich Chinese culture and history, lessons learned from the need to stay unified and build common bonds between 56 ethnic groups to defend our huge land mass, culture, population and resources from foreign invaders from time to time — all these factors and more have been the driving force shaping the Chinese legal and political system.

The amendment will help increase efficiency and capacity to produce better-quality laws to strengthen our rule of law, support moral and ethical standards in our society, and address the new challenges and opportunities presented by the following six aspects:

First, advancements in living standards (the doubling of GDP and average individual income over the past 10 years while keeping inflation at a low single-digit percentage, with almost full employment and with unemployment at slightly over 5 percent and over 13 million new jobs created each year).

Second, advancements in technology, with China leading the world in 5G, quantum computing, Industry 4.0 artificial intelligence-enabled revolution.

Third, growth of the digital economy, Web3, metaverse, openverse.

Fourth, expanding the pace of market reform, opening more opportunities for local and foreign businesses alike in the face of geopolitically motivated economic duress asserted by other countries.

Fifth, pressing need to address climate change; and sixth, advancements in culture, welfare, economics, human rights, environmental protection and other aspects.

The amendment would authorize local governments to work together to pass regional laws where appropriate. This approach would overcome problems we have had to tackle at the national level, when we previously encountered problems spreading through rivers that fell under the purview of different local governments. Personally, I hope this will open doors to enable the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area local governments to collaborate more closely under GBA-wide coordinated laws and directives.  

Laws exist to serve the people, so as society’s needs, challenges and expectations evolve, so too must the laws; and the approach and methodology in the legislation of laws must also evolve.

The author is a Hong Kong Deputy to the National People’s Congress, and chairman of the Hong Kong and Mainland Legal Profession Association.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.