Legislation to focus on social issues

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-12 06:49

Legislators will take a closer look at social issues this year and strengthen supervision over governments to build a harmonious society.

"While continuing to improve economic legislation, we must also enact laws related to social programs to provide a solid legal foundation for a harmonious society," Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), said yesterday while delivering a work report to the NPC full session.

This is the first time in a decade that the NPC, the country's top legislature, made clear that social affairs will be placed on an equal footing with economic matters in legislative priorities.

The legislative agenda for 2007 released yesterday also reflects the change.

About half of the 20 draft laws or amendments to be discussed this year touch on social problems, including labor contracts, social welfare, employment, food safety, the environment and public response to emergencies.

In contrast, only 4-5 of the 18 draft laws discussed last year fell in this category.

The agenda also lists three economic draft laws to be, or being, discussed this year, dealing with property rights, taxation, and urban and rural development, compared with last year's eight draft laws on economic affairs.

NPC deputies said they had noticed the shift of focus in legislation, and applauded it.

"The change shows that our government and legislature are more people-oriented," said Tong Haibao, a deputy from East China's Anhui Province.

He said China's rapid economic growth in the past few years had resulted in many social problems and disputes, and more laws would definitely help solve them.

Wu Haiying, a deputy from Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, viewed the change as a victory for NPC deputies. She said in the past four years, many deputies had raised proposals or suggestions relating to social problems that directly affect the public.

"We're glad to see that our efforts have paid off," she said.

Online surveys by Sina.com, one of the country's most popular websites, and Xinhua.net, also show that social issues such as healthcare, education, food safety and housing are among the top issues people want the NPC to address.

In an attempt to improve the work of the NPC Standing Committee, Wu Bangguo said it would increase supervision over governments this year.

"We must properly handle the relationship between congresses and governments," he said, adding that overseeing governments is one of the major powers accorded to the NPC by the Constitution.

(China Daily 03/12/2007 page1)

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