By Lisong Liu, Staff Writer
In the last issue [we] outlined the state structure of PRC. Here we will discuss the National People’s Congress (NPC) in greater detail. Under the constitution, NPC is the highest organ of state power in China. In other words, NPC formally ranks above the State Council, the Central Military Commission (CMC), the Supreme Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP).
I. History of NPC
NPC was established in 1954 based on the Soviet Union’s Supreme Soviet. China has convened ten NPCs up to now, respectively 1954, 1959, 1964, 1975, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, and the most recent from March 5 to 18, 2003, which elected a new political leadership and approved important changes in the organization of government. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), NPC like many other state organs was hardly at work; after that NPC gradually restored its power and progressed with the political and economic reform in China. The 1982 Constitution redefined its organizations and increased deputies’ influence over public affairs. NPC restored and expanded its working organs, and some new committees were created such as the Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee in 1988 and the Environmental and Resources Protection Committee in 1993.
II. Functions and Powers of NPC
The Constitution defines that NPC and its Standing Committee exercise the legislative power of the state. The functions of NPC include:
1. Amending and supervising the enforcement of the Constitution.
2. Enacting and amending basic statutes concerning criminal offenses, civil affairs, the state organs and other matters; altering or annulling inappropriate decisions of the Standing Committee of NPC.
3. Electing, approving or removing the heads of the government organs such as the President, Vice-President, Premier, Vice-Premiers, State Councilors, Ministers, Auditor-General, Secretary-General, Chairman of the CMC, President of Supreme Court, and President of SPP.
4. Examining and approving the plan for national economic and social development and the reports on its implementation; the state budget and the report on its implementation.
5. Approving the establishment of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government; deciding on the establishment of special administrative regions and the systems to be instituted there.
6. Deciding on questions of war and peace.
7. Exercising such other functions and powers as the highest organ of state power should exercise.
III. Structure and Operation of NPC
A. Plenary Sessions and Presidium
The deputies for NPC are elected by the people’s congresses of provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the central government, the People’s Liberation Army, the Hong Kong Special Administration Region, and the Macau Special Administration Region. Deputies to the congresses at and under the country level are directly elected. Deputies are elected by an absolute majority vote, and the number of deputies is normally based on the population of its constituency, while national minorities and PLA tend to be overrepresented. Also because of the imbalance between the rural and urban population, eight people are represented by one rural deputy as compared to one represented by one urban deputy.
NPC has nearly 3,000 deputies, who are elected for a term of five years. NPC convenes annually, and its Standing Committee, serving as the permanent organ of NPC, confers with NPC once a year, normally in March.
At every plenary session, deputies elect a 16-member presidium as well as a number of executive and standing chairpersons who will preside over the successive meetings of the session and deal with the daily business of the Standing Committee. Selected by the Communist Party, they can serve up to two terms.
B. Standing Committee (SC)
The SC is also elected for 5 years. Its 155 members include the Council of Chairmen, which comprises of 1 chairman, 15 vice chairmen and 1 secretary general, and 162 ordinary councilors. The chairman of NPC is normally a key member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Party. Officially, he is third in the power structure of the state, following the President and the Premier. The Council of Chairmen meets at least once a month, and its core members meet every week. Most ordinary councilors only come to the NPC every two months for the weeklong meetings or when their specialized committees meet.
The Party leaders in the Council of Chairmen form the Party Core Group. Headed by the Chairman of NPC, the Group supervises CCP members in NPC and instructs them in their work. The Group has the authority to put bills on the agenda of NPC or its Standing Committee.
The administrative body of the Standing Committee of NPC is comprised of the Secretariat, the General Office, the Legislative Affairs Commission (LAC) and the Budgetary Affairs Commission (BAC). The Secretariat is responsible directly to the Chairman of NPC and coordinates the activities of BAC, LAC and other specialized committees. There are 11 bureaus in the General Office dealing with the issues like issuing NPC’s news releases, liaising with foreign parliaments and local level people’s congresses, researching the parliamentary system, recruiting staff for NPC, etc. The LAC, set up in 1979, works directly under the Standing Committee instead of the NPC Law Committee and conducts some law-drafting work. The BAC was set up in 1999 and its main purpose is to assist the NPC Financial and Economic Committee on the issues such as examining the budget plan, enforcement and amendments, government financial accounts and related bills and laws. There are also 9 special committees under the Standing Committee. Each has 20-30 members, and meets once a month. Members of the committees are always former officials or scholars in the particular field.