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National People's Congress (NPC)

The NPC is the highest organ of State power in China. It is composed of NPC deputies who are elected from 35 electoral units according to the law. These units include people's congresses of provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the central government, the servicemen congress of the People's Liberation Army, the deputy election council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the deputy election council of the Macao Special Administrative Region and the Taiwan compatriots' consultation election council. Each congress is elected for a term of five years. A total of 2,980 deputies were elected to the 13th NPC before its first session began in Beijing on March 5, 2018. The NPC meets in session once a year. A session of the NPC may be convened at any time the Standing Committee deems it necessary or when more than one-fifth of the deputies to the NPC propose it.

Functions and Powers of the NPC

To amend the Constitution and to supervise its enforcement

Only the NPC has the power to amend the Constitution. Amendments to the Constitution must be proposed by the NPC's Standing Committee or by more than one-fifth of NPC deputies and must be adopted by vote of more than two-thirds of all the deputies to the NPC. The current Constitution was adopted in 1982, and it was amended in 1988, 1993, 1999, 2004 and 2018. To uphold the dignity of the Constitution and ensure its enforcement, the NPC is also granted the power to supervise its enforcement.

To enact and amend basic laws governing criminal offenses, civil affairs, the State organs and other matters

For example, the NPC has enacted the Criminal Law, the Criminal Procedure Law, the Civil Law, the Civil Procedure Law, the Organic Law of the NPC, the Organic Law of the State Council, the Organic Law of Local People's Congresses and Local People's Governments, the Supervision Law, the Organic Law of the People's Courts, the Organic Law of the People's Procuratorates, the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, the Electoral Law, the Law on Deputies to the NPC and to the Local People's Congresses at Various Levels, the Marriage Law, the Nationality Law, the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region.

To elect, decide to appoint and remove from office members of central State organs

The NPC elects the President and Vice-President of the People's Republic of China, the Chairperson, vice-chairpersons, secretary-general and members of its Standing Committee, as well as the director of the National Supervisory Commission. It decides on the choice of the Premier of the State Council upon nomination by the President, and also decides on the choice of the vice-premiers, State councilors, ministers in charge of minis tries or commissions, the governor of the People's Bank of China, and the auditor-general and secretary-general of the State Council, upon nomination by the Premier. It elects the Chairman of the Central Military Commission and decides on the choice of all other members of this commission upon nomination by the Chairman. It also elects the President of the Supreme People's Court and the Procurator General of the Supreme People's Procuratorate. It has the power to remove any of the above-mentioned officials from office.

To determine major State issues

The NPC is mandated to review and approve reports on the plan for national economic and social development and its implementation. It also reviews reports on the central and local budgets and their implementation. It can approve the establishment of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, decide on the establishment of special administrative regions and the systems to be instituted there, and decide on questions of war and peace.

For example, the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Macao Special Administrative Region, Hainan province, Chongqing Municipality and the building of the Three Gorges Dam Project on the Yangtze River were all decided by the NPC.

Procedures of the NPC Sessions

Convocation of sessions

NPC sessions are held annually, usually during the first quarter of the year, and are convened by the NPC Standing Committee. The first session of each NPC is convened by the Standing Committee of the previous NPC within two months after the election of deputies to the current NPC. Sessions of the NPC shall be held only when at least two-thirds of the deputies are present.

Form of sessions

During an NPC session, plenary meetings and meetings of delegations are held.

The major tasks of the plenary meetings are for deputies to listen to work reports by the NPC Standing Committee, the State Council, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. At plenary meetings, deputies also examine reports on the implementation of plans for national economic and social development, and on draft plans for national economic and social development. They also examine reports on the implementation of the central and local budgets and on the draft of the central and local budgets, listen to statements made by the sponsors of bills or proposals submitted to the session for deliberation, vote on bills or proposals and make decisions. They can also elect, decide to appoint or remove from office members of central State organs in line with the law. The main tasks of delegation meetings, including plenary ones and group meetings, are to examine reports, bills and proposals placed on the agenda of the NPC sessions.

Submitting bills and proposals

The Presidium of the NPC session, the NPC Standing Committee and the NPC's special committees, the State Council, the Central Military Commission, the Supreme People's Court or the Supreme People's Procuratorate can submit to the NPC bills or proposals that fall within the scope of its functions and powers. The Presidium shall decide whether or not to put the bills or proposals on the agenda of the NPC session.

A delegation or a group of 30 or more deputies can submit to the NPC bills or proposals that fall within its functions and powers. The Presidium shall decide whether or not to put the bills or proposals on the agenda of the NPC session, or refer them to the relevant special committees for deliberation and opinions before making the decision whether or not to put them on the agenda of the session.

Examination of bills or proposals

Examination of work reports

During an annual NPC session, the NPC Standing Committee, the State Council, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate present their work reports. The NPC may make relevant resolutions after their reports are examined by delegations.

Deliberating legislative bills

A legislative bill that has been placed on the session's agenda is first explained by its sponsor at a plenary meeting, then deliberated at meetings of various delegations and in the meantime, by the relevant special committees that put forward reports on their deliberation. The Constitution and Law Committee of the NPC shall, in light of opinions expressed during deliberations by the various delegations and the relevant special committees, conduct unified deliberation on the bill and submits a report on the results of deliberation and the revised draft law to the Presidium. The Presidium shall, after deliberation and approval, print the bill for distribution at the session and also submit the revised bill to a plenary meeting of the session for a vote.

Examining State plans and budgets

One month before an NPC session is held, the competent departments concerned under the State Council should report to the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee and the relevant special committees of the NPC the main points of the plan for national economic and social development and the basic situation regarding the implementation of the previous year's plan, as well as the main points of the State budget and the basic situation regarding the implementation of the previous year's State budget for preliminary examination by the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee. When the NPC is in session each year, the State Council shall submit to the session a report on the plan for national economic and social development and the implementation of the previous year's plan, a report on the State budget and the implementation of the previous year's State budget, and print them for distribution at the session. The main targets in the national economic and social development plan (draft), the tables of revenue and expenditure in the State budget (draft) and the tables showing the implementation of the previous year's State budget (draft) shall also be printed and distributed at the session for reviews by the delegations. The Financial and Economic Affairs Committee shall, in the light of the examination reports prepared by the various delegations and the relevant special committees, examine the report on the plan for national economic and social development and on the implementation of the previous year's plan, and the report on the State budget and the implementation of the previous year's State budget, and submit to the Presidium a report on the results of its examination. The Presidium shall, after deliberation and approval, print the report for distribution at the session. The Presidium shall also submit a draft resolution on the plan for national economic and social development and a draft resolution on the State budget and the implementation of the previous year's State budget to a plenary meeting of the session for vote. If, in the course of implementation, adjustment must be made to part of the plan for national economic and social development and the State budget approved by the NPC, the State Council shall submit the adjusted plan to the Standing Committee of the NPC for examination and approval.

Voting on bills or proposals

Bills or proposals put to the vote at a plenary meeting of an NPC session shall be adopted by a simple majority vote of all the deputies. An amendment to the Constitution shall be adopted by two-thirds or more of the votes of all the deputies. The outcome of a vote shall be announced on the spot by the person presiding over the meeting. After a legislative bill is adopted, the law shall be promulgated by the order of the President of the People's Republic of China signed by the President. After an amendment to the Constitution is adopted, it shall be promulgated by the Presidium.

At an NPC session, the Presidium decides whether to vote on bills by ballot, a show of hands or other methods. Voting on amendments to the Constitution shall be done by ballot.

Standing Committee of the NPC

The NPC Standing Committee is composed of a chairperson, several vice-chairpersons, the secretary-general and other members. They are all elected by the NPC from its deputies for a five-year term, the same as the NPC term. The Standing Committee shall exercise its functions and powers until a new Standing Committee is elected by the succeeding NPC. In the first session of the 13th NPC, 175 members of the 13th NPC Standing Committee were elected, and they have been performing their duties since March 2018. None of the NPC Standing Committee members may hold office in any of the State's administrative, supervisory, judicial or procuratorial organs. The chairperson and vice-chairpersons of the Standing Committee shall serve no more than two consecutive terms. Those who have served as Chairmen of the NPC Standing Committee since the founding of the People's Republic of China include: Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, Ye Jianying, Peng Zhen, Wan Li, Qiao Shi, Li Peng, Wu Bangguo and Zhang Dejiang. The Chairman of the 13th NPC Standing Committee is Li Zhanshu. The chairperson of the NPC Standing Committee directs the work of the Standing Committee. The vice-chairpersons and the secretary-general assist the chairperson in his or her work. The chairperson, vice-chairpersons and secretary-general constitute the Council of Chairpersons, which handles the important day-to-day work of the Standing Committee. The NPC Standing Committee normally meets once every two months. It may hold interim meetings when there is a special need. The NPC Standing Committee is responsible to the NPC and reports to it on its work. The NPC has the power to alter or annul inappropriate decisions made by the Standing Committee and to remove its members from office.

Functions and Powers of the Standing Commitee

Legislative power

The NPC and its Standing Committee jointly exercise the power to enact laws in China. The NPC Standing Committee may enact and amend all laws, except those that should be enacted and amended by the NPC. When the NPC is not in session, its Standing Committee may partially supplement and amend laws that the NPC enacted, as long as the changes do not contravene the law's basic principles. The Standing Committee also has the power to interpret the Constitution and other laws.

Supervisory power

The NPC Standing Committee has the power to supervise the enforcement of the Constitution. It supervises the work of the State Council, the Central Military Commission, the National Supervisory Commission, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. It has the power to annul administrative regulations, decisions and orders of the State Council that go against the Constitution and other laws, and to annul local regulations or decisions of the organs of State power of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government that contravene the Constitution, other laws or administrative regulations.

The fundamental means through which the NPC Standing Committee exercises supervision are as follows: to listen to and examine special work reports made by the State Council and its relevant departments, the National Supervisory Commission, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate; to inspect the enforcement of laws; and to put on record and review regulatory documents, such as administrative regulations of the State Council, local regulations adopted by local people's congresses, autonomy regulations and separate regulations.

In addition, the Standing Committee may also supervise the work of the State Council, the National Supervisory Commission, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate by questioning, addressing inquiries and investigating specific issues.

The power to decide upon major State issues

When the NPC is not in session, the Standing Committee examines and approves partial adjustments to the plan for national economic and social development or to the State budget that prove necessary in the course of their implementation. The Standing Committee decides whether to ratify or abrogate treaties and important agreements reached with other countries. It institutes systems of titles and ranks for military and diplomatic personnel, and other specific titles and ranks. The Standing Committee also institutes State medals and titles of honor and decides on their conferment.

It makes decisions on the granting of special pardons. It decides on general or partial mobilization, and on entering into a state of emergency throughout China or in particular provinces, autonomous regions or municipalities directly under the central government. When the NPC is not in session, the Standing Committee decides whether to proclaim a state of war in the event of an armed attack on China or in fulfillment of international treaty obligations concerning a common defense against aggression.

The power to appoint and remove from office members of central State organs

When the NPC is not in session, its Standing Committee decides on the choice of ministers in charge of ministries or commissions, the governor of the People's Bank of China, the auditor-general or the secretary-general of the State Council upon nomination by the Premier of the State Council; it decides on the choice of other members of the Central Military Commission upon nomination by the Chairman of the Commission; it appoints or removes the deputy directors and members of the National Supervisory Commission at the recommendation of the director of the commission; it appoints or removes at the recommendation of the President of the Supreme People's Court, the vice-presidents and judges of the Supreme People's Court, members of its Judicial Committee and the President of the Military Court; it appoints or removes, at the recommendation of the Procurator-General of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the deputy procurators-general and procurators of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, members of its Procuratorial Committee and the Chief Procurator of the Military Procuratorate, and approves the appointment or removal of the chief procurators of the people's procuratorates of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government; it decides on the appointment or recall of plenipotentiary representatives abroad.

Meetings of the Standing Committee and their Procedures

Convocation of meetings

The NPC Standing Committee usually holds a meeting once every other month, usually late in even-numbered months. It may also hold interim meetings if there is a special need. The meetings are convened and chaired by the NPC Standing Committee Chairperson. The chairperson may delegate a vice-chairperson to preside over the meeting on his or her behalf. A meeting of the Standing Committee may not be held unless more than half of the members are present. The Council of Chairpersons shall draft the agenda for a meeting of the Standing Committee and refer it to a plenary meeting of the Standing Committee for a decision.

Form of meetings

When the Standing Committee is in session, it holds plenary meetings, group meetings and joint group meetings. A plenary meeting is held primarily to determine agendas for the meetings of the Standing Committee. It also serves to hear explanations on bills or proposals, to hear special work reports of the State Council, the National Supervisory Commission, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, and to vote on bills or proposals.

Group meetings are held primarily to examine relevant bills, proposals and reports. The 13th NPC Standing Committee is divided into six groups to examine bills or proposals. On the basis of the deliberation through group meetings, joint group meetings are held to hear and examine reports of the special committees on the results of their deliberation over bills or proposals, to discuss issues listed on the agenda, to hear the supplementary explanation on bills or proposals from the sponsors who are in charge of the bills or proposals.

Putting forward bills and proposals

Council of Chairpersons may put forward bills or proposals concerning matters within the scope of the respective functions and powers of the Standing Committee to the Standing Committee for deliberation.

The State Council, the Central Military Commission, the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the NPC special committees may bring to the Standing Committee bills or proposals concerning matters within the scope of the respective functions and powers of the Standing Committee. The Council of Chairpersons then decides whether to refer a bill to a plenary meeting of the Standing Committee for deliberation or to give it to an appropriate special committee to deliberate and report on before deciding whether to refer it to a plenary meeting of the Standing Committee for deliberation.

A group of 10 or more members of the Standing Committee may jointly put forward to the Standing Committee any bills or proposals that are within the scope of the respective functions and powers of the Standing Committee. The Council of Chairpersons then decides whether to refer the bill or proposal to the Standing Committee for deliberation or to give it to an appropriate special committee to deliberate and report on before deciding whether to refer it to the Standing Committee for deliberation. Any bill or proposal that is not referred to the Standing Committee for deliberation must be reported to the Standing Committee, or an explanation must be given to the sponsor.

Deliberating and voting on bills or proposals

Normally, a legislative bill on the agenda of a meeting of the Standing Committee requires three readings at three separate meetings of the Standing Committee before being voted on. At the first reading, an explanation of the legislative bill made by its sponsor shall be heard in a plenary meeting of the Standing Committee and then it shall be preliminarily deliberated at group meetings. At the second reading, a report of the Constitution and Law Committee on the revision of the draft law and main problems concerned shall be heard in a plenary meeting, and then the legislative bill shall be further deliberated at group meetings. At the third reading, a report of the Constitution and Law Committee on the results of its deliberation over the draft law shall be heard in a plenary meeting, and then the revised draft of the law shall be deliberated at group meetings. After the revised draft law has been deliberated at the meetings of the Standing Committee, the Constitution and Law Committee revises it in accordance with the deliberation opinions of the Standing Committee members and prepares the final version to be voted on. The Council of Chairpersons then refers the legislative bill to the Standing Committee for a vote. A simple majority of all Standing Committee members is needed to pass the law.

If there are no major differences of opinions about a legislative bill on the agenda of the meeting of the Standing Committee, the legislative bill may be put to a vote after two readings by the Standing Committee. If the issue being adjusted in the legislative bill is simplistic or a small part of the law is revised, and opinions from all quarters are almost the same, the legislative bill may be put to vote after one reading by the Standing Committee. If a legislative bill put before Standing Committee meetings for deliberation has been shelved for two full years because of significant differences of opinions among Standing Committee members concerning important matters, such as its necessity or feasibility, or if it has not been placed on the agenda of a meeting of the Standing Committee for two years after it was suspended to be put to the vote, the Council of Chairpersons shall report this matter to the Standing Committee, and the deliberation process of the legislative bill shall be terminated.

Laws passed by the Standing Committee are promulgated by the President of the People's Republic of China by issuing an order of the President.

A plenary meeting of the Standing Committee hears special work reports by the State Council, the National Supervisory Commission, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the implementation report of plans for national economic and social development, the implementation report of the State budget, the report on the final account of central government revenue and expenditure, the report on audit work, the law enforcement report by the law-enforcement inspection team of the Standing Committee, and others. These reports will then be deliberated at group meetings and joint group meetings. The Council of Chairpersons may decide to hand the work report over to the relevant special committee of the NPC for deliberation and the special committee is supposed to put forward its opinion on it. The Standing Committee may make a resolution on a work report, if it deems it necessary. The State Council, the National Supervisory Commission, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate must be serious with the opinions or suggestions put forward by the members of the Standing Committee on their work reports and law-enforcement reports. They must present a written follow-up report to the Standing Committee explaining what they have done about these opinions or suggestions after they have consulted with the NPC special committees and relevant working organs of the Standing Committee.

Council of Chairpersons

The chairperson of the NPC Standing Committee directs the work of the Standing Committee.

The vice-chairpersons and the secretary-general assist the chairperson in his or her work. The chairperson, vice-chairpersons and secretary-general constitute the Council of Chairpersons, which handles the important day-to-day work of the Standing Committee. 

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