Lawmakers put whole-process people's democracy into action
Policy- or lawmaking should always be based on public consultation, extensive research and well-conceived procedures
By Tao Xing  ·  2022-03-14  ·   Source: NO.11 MARCH 17, 2022
Su Bomin (right) checks the restoration of murals in a cave in the Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, Gansu Province, on February 23 (XINHUA)

During the Fifth Session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), Yang Rong, a deputy from Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, together with other lawmakers, had 10 items on the agenda, including the deliberation of several documents such as the government work report, over the course of six and a half days since March 5. Drafting suggestions and submitting motions was another important task throughout their five-year term, which will conclude in 2023. More than 2,700 of 2,951 13th NPC deputies attended this year's full session in Beijing.

Community police officer Yang's suggestions this year concerned advancing law-based primary-level governance and improving community security mechanisms. As a member of the Taiyuan Women's Federation, she primarily focused on issues related to women's and children's rights during the session.

NPC deputies are elected nationwide. They are the voices of the people they represent, with their suggestions usually relating to the regions they hail from, the fields in which they work, and the topics at play in society.

Motions can be raised through a provincial-level delegation, a group of at least 30 NPC deputies, or the relevant NPC departments. A motion is raised when congress is in session; it becomes legally binding when adopted. Suggestions concerning political and social issues will be passed on to government and judicial departments concerned for consideration, according to the regulations regarding their handling. The drafting party will receive a reply on the outcome for each of their suggestions.

Deputy Su Bomin has been working in the Mogao Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Dunhuang, Gansu Province, for three decades. Also known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, the site consists of roughly 500 Buddhist temples carved into cliff faces and lined with one of the world's most precious Buddhist art collections.

Since his election as NPC deputy in 2018, Su, also curator of Dunhuang Academy, the institution responsible for overseeing the grottoes, has presented a series of suggestions for the preservation of cultural relics. 

Chui Sai Peng, a deputy from Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR), then, called for intensifying the region's role in cooperation with Portuguese-speaking countries and promoting scientific and technological exchanges between Macao and the mainland.

The 13th NPC has 12 deputies from Macao SAR and 36 from Hong Kong SAR. There are also 13 deputies representing Taiwan, most of whom were born in the mainland but have ancestral roots tracing back to the island.

The people's voice 

"We have achieved a lot in primary-level governance, for example, implementing new and effective management systems for communities and neighborhoods with high population densities, which allow us to more swiftly identify potential problems," Yang told Beijing Review.

"We have invited volunteers to participate in the management," Yang said. "Dividing communities into smaller sections allows us to better adapt to resident needs, in turn providing them with a safer and happier environment."

Yet China's current urban and rural community governance models remain complex and often do not clarify the responsibilities of stakeholders. Yang said specific legal provisions are necessary to render urban and rural management more effective.

"I developed the proposal based on the problems people face in daily life," Yang said, adding that she had conducted extensive field research and further discussed her proposal with experts.

"Our current system is more democratic than the West gives us credit for; they seem to think we are just rubber stamping the approval process—which is far from the truth," Lee Kwan Ho, a deputy from Hong Kong, told Beijing Review. "Any legal revision has undergone a long, due process of deliberation as well as public opinion consultation," Lee said, adding there are millions of online opinions to be considered as well under an established digital system.

Every year, Lee assesses different surveys and studies, including those organized by the NPC. "It's all about getting the right information from the right people—namely, the grassroots," he said.

Lee Kwan Ho, a deputy from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, partakes in a panel deliberation during the Fifth Session of the 13th National People's Congress, on March 8 (COURTESY PHOTO)

Concrete process 

"Policy- or lawmaking should always be based on public consultation, extensive research and well-conceived procedures," Su told Beijing Review. During their five-year term, the NPC provides training sessions to help deputies study the related rules on how to submit motions and suggestions.

"My work as a deputy over the past four years has allowed me to witness firsthand the importance the NPC attaches to our advice," Yang said. "It also reflects the importance the Central Government attaches to people's immediate interests, which in turn inspires deputies to more actively represent the people."

Since becoming an NPC deputy in 2018, Yang has submitted proposals on the promotion of folk culture and the support of family education; all have become part of the related government policies or laws.

"By doing my duty, I can make people's voices heard and acted upon by the NPC. This is the embodiment of whole-process people's democracy," Yang added. 

If a deputy disagrees with the response to their suggestion, officials from the handling department will fly from Beijing to wherever they may be to explain and further discuss the matter face to face, according to Lee. "Of course, as deputies are elected, we also report our efforts and undertakings to our electors every year."

Su suggested making cultural relics preservation a major in universities again at this year's NPC session. He said he feels it is of great importance for future generations to better understand and protect their nation's past.

Su had presented something similar before, namely during the Second Session of 13th NPC in 2019. In their reply at the time, the Ministry of Education agreed with the importance of cultivating high-caliber professionals for cultural relics preservation, and committed to engage in further discussion with related parties.

According to the Report on the Work of the Standing Committee of the NPC released on March 8, all 8,993 suggestions submitted by deputies during the 2021 annual session were forwarded to 194 organizations for examination and handling, a process which has now been completed. The 265 suggestions that were raised when the NPC was not in session were handed over to 98 organizations for examination and handling.

"The ministries and departments give their feedback on every suggestion and inform us of the procedures' progress directly by phone or mail," Su said.

(Print Edition Title: THE NPC EMBODIMENT) 

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon 

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