China has been moving toward "rule of law" for more than a decade. It has been an eventful period, during which common people are given increasing say in lawmaking.
For years in China, administrative regulations issued by government agencies have constituted a major basis of the legal system and proven effective in the settlement of a large proportion of judicial proceedings due to their concrete and specific stipulations. However, since the regulations place more emphasis on feasibility, most of them are case-oriented and their formulation always follows simplified procedures. A direct result of insufficient consultation during the shaping of the regulations means they fail to take into account concerns of different interest groups and are therefore ineffective in dealing with some unexpected circumstances. Worse still, loopholes in these statutes were abused to legalize the infringements on the lawful rights and interests of citizens and corporations in some cases.
Clearly, a complete change of the above-mentioned situation lies in the establishment of a strict and transparent legislative system that features the broadest public participation.
In 2000, China promulgated its first Legislation Law, which clarifies the obligations of legislatures at various levels to institutionalize measures that can ensure the laws are made by the people and for the people. Its Article 5 states, "Lawmaking shall reflect the will of the people, promote socialist democracy, and ensure that people are able to participate in the lawmaking process through various channels."
The first successful attempt for this purpose was launched in 2001 with the revision of the Marriage Law. It's reported that after the draft amendment of the law was published, the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, was flooded with feedback from people aged 13 to 90.
During the tenure of the 10th National People's Congress (March 2003-March 2008), an "open-door model" was frequently applied. The formulation of the milestone Real Right Law, which spanned seven hearings in 13 years, is the largest lawmaking activity participated by the public so far. During the month after the draft law was promulgated on July 10, 2005, more than 10,000 members of the public responded. Revisions on this basis meant the first Chinese statute on private property protection conformed much better to the requirements of the people.
Following that, on September 27, 2005, 20 representatives, selected from almost 5,000 applicants, aired their opinions on the adjustment of taxable personal income at the first legislative hearing convened by the National People's Congress since the Legislation Law took effect. The event is hailed as the dawn of open and transparent taxation legislation in China. In 2007, public debates on the Labor Contract Law and the Employment Promotion Law further added to the already high public desire to get involved in the lawmaking process.
Though the open-door model inevitably prolongs the legislation process, it prevents the country's laws from only catering to the government's needs and is playing an increasingly important role in checking the administrative power. In the next five years and beyond, people can expect more transparent lawmaking to contribute to the implementation of rule of law.