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Business / Green China

Environmental protection amendment not put to vote

(Xinhua) Updated: 2013-10-26 11:28

BEIJING -- China's top legislature decided Friday not to vote on a draft amendment to the environmental protection law after a third reading, as legislators called for harsher actions to protect the already heavily polluted environment.

Legislators at a plenary meeting Friday morning passed a revision to the law on consumer rights and interests, but the environmental protection law draft amendment was not brought to a vote. The plenary meeting was held as part of a bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, from Monday to Friday.

Legislators were not satisfied with the current version of the draft amendment, calling for stricter measures and more government obligations, as China is facing an increasing number of environmental issues after decades of rapid development.

Compared with the version that was tabled for the second reading in June, the latest amendment increases the weight of environmental protection in evaluating government performance. According to the current version, governments should view environmental protection work as a criterion when evaluating related departments, governments, and officials at lower levels.

Lyu Zushan, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, said at a group deliberation that implementation of energy conservation and emission reduction has not been satisfactory, which has put heavier pressure on the environment.

Lyu said that because many pollution issues cannot be solved by environmental protection authorities alone, there should be rigid measures to restrain governments, rather than just enterprises, from developing projects while overlooking environmental protections.

He added that environmental quality data should be more transparent for the public, and the law should clearly define how to improve transparency.

Wu Xiaoling, another member of the NPC Standing Committee, said that although the current version of the draft amendment expands the range of subjects of public interest litigation on environmental issues, the range should be expanded further and non-profit organizations should be encouraged to seek litigation on environmental issues.

By promoting public interest litigation, the public's appeal for a better environment can be addressed through rule of law, instead of resorting to mass incidents.

China has faced increased mass incidents over environmental issues in recent years. Citizens in some cities took to the streets against paraxylene projects, which they believed to be a threat to the local environment. Those projects were later suspended.

The Law Committee of the NPC said in a report that the draft amendment will be further improved after collecting opinions from senior legislators and related departments during the session.

The law has not been revised since it took effect in 1989. Ji Bingxuan, vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, said finishing the amendment is extremely urgent in order to respond to the call of the people.

This is the third time that the draft amendment has been deliberated by legislators since its first reading in August last year. It is quite rare in China for a law or amendment not to be passed after three readings.

Another such rare case was the property law, which was finally passed in the fifth session of the 10th NPC in March 2007 after eight readings.

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