China's lawmakers are again debating a controversial law on the protection of
private property as they struggle with the concept that experts say "could
undermine the legal foundation of China's socialist system."
The latest draft has included "the protection of state, collective, and
private property" as the main principle of legislation.
The nearly 200 legislators attending the current session of the Standing
Committee of the National People's Congress are debating the law for the sixth
time. No law has ever had more than five readings.
The committee members are debating adding clauses to the law that will
prevent fraudulent acquisitions and mergers of state assets.
"People who (fraudulently) create losses of state assets through
restructuring, acquisition, or insider trading shall be held responsible by
law," says the sixth version of the bill, which was submitted to the country's
top legislation for debate on Friday.
It is another move by the bill's drafters to highlight the protection of
state property in the wake of strong calls from the public to curb corrupt
officials and businessmen who connive to take over state assets for their own
benefit under cover of "business deals."
The 45-page draft also protects individual rights to bank accounts, earned
profits and residential property.
"The property bill should reflect the actual economic situation in China with
the focus on solving the urgent needs in economic development," said Hu
Kangsheng, deputy director of the Law Committee of the National People's
"We should learn from the foreign experiences on drafting the similar laws,
but should not blindly copy them," Hu told the Standing Committee of the
National People's Congress on Friday.
The bill was first submitted to the legislature in 2002 and has gone through
a rare fifth reading. It was withdrawn from the NPC's full session last March
amid worries that the law, the country's first to protect private ownership,
could undermine China's socialist system if the rights of individuals superceded
the state's right to care for the collective good.
Opposition faded after drafters revised the fifth version, debated last
August, which put rights of state ownership at the heart of the economic system.
"The biggest problem is that corrupt government officials conspire with
businessmen to prey on state assets in the process of restructuring and
merging," said Huang Shuhe, deputy director of State-owned Assets Supervision
and Administration Commission.
Huang cited a recent case in western Shaanxi Province, where the state-owned
Shaanxi Crops Group was acquisitioned by a relatively small private firm. Within
a year, the net profits of the group slumped from 117 million yuan (14.6 million
U.S. dollars) to 333 million yuan in deficit.