Top Beijing adviser promotes role for consultants

By ZHAO HUANXIN (China Daily)
Updated: 2014-03-13 02:41

Legislation is the turf of the people's congress, so how can the political advisory body play a part in lawmaking?

Ji Lin, chairman of the Beijing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said legislative consultation is the answer.

This means that legal drafts of the legislature are made open to the suggestions and critiques of the political advisers before becoming final, Ji told China Daily.

"It should be a systematic arrangement. It should be a rule that the political advisory body has a voice in the process of making either laws by the legislature or regulations by the government," Ji said.

"We are on our way to cementing such a rule, which will be completed in the second half of this year."

A landmark statute on air pollution control in Beijing, enacted earlier this month, is a showcase of how political advisers play a role in lawmaking, he said.

To address long-festering complaints about choking smog that regularly blankets Beijing's skies, the Beijing People's Congress decided to lay out a special law in 2013.

It was the first time in 13 years that the Beijing Municipal People's Congress exercised its legislative power to review the draft of the anti-air-pollution law.

"In the past, a few political advisers had been asked to advise each time when a law was drafted, but not on a large scale," Ji said.

"When it comes to legislation on air pollution control, everyone wants to have a say. How could the political advisers' voices be unheard?"

The National Committee of the CPPCC consists of elite figures from diverse backgrounds who are willing to serve as a think tank for the government and for the country's legislative and judicial organs.

Likewise, its Beijing committee, of which Ji is chairman, consists of 758 members who are either environmental specialists, lawyers, religious figures or economists, representing all walks of Beijing society, ranging from business communities to religious circles in 32 categories.

With its broad representation, the advisory body can play a unique role in advising government and aiding legislation, Ji said.

He said that when the draft of the air pollution bill was delivered to the municipal advisory body for suggestions, nearly 98 percent of the advisers joined in the debate and deliberation.

Ji asked 30 legal and environmental experts to form a team to screen the 900 revisions and suggestions submitted by the political advisers.

As a result, the municipal legislature made 83 changes to 61 articles of the anti-air-pollution statute.

One original clause says that the more an enterprise pollutes the air, the more money it must pay to address pollution.

The political advisers proposed revising it to say that "polluters must be held accountable, and whoever pollutes must treat the pollution and pay for the treatment", according to a statement from the municipal political advisory body's office.

Other changes that have been adopted include piloting a system for air pollution emission quota trading, according to the statement.

"The municipal legislature was satisfied with the suggestions, and the political advisers were happy to see they had made a difference," Ji said.

The chairman said that the more democratic a lawmaking process is, the easier it will be carried through.

"Many of our members who have participated in the legislative consultation said that since their opinions had been aired and adopted, they will become models in obeying the law upon its enactment," Ji said.

In fact, the reform road map for China laid out at a key plenary session of the Party in November has highlighted consultation as an important means of democracy for the country, and this includes consultation on legislation, Ji said.

Furthermore, Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC, urged political advisers on Monday to pool wisdom and put forward their suggestions to advance China's democracy and exert the CPPCC's role of multiparty cooperation and political consultation.

"We have summarized the success story of legislative consultation, and we are making a rule with the municipal government and legislature on how this consultation will proceed," Ji said.

The goal is to make it a norm so that this year and beyond, when the municipal legislature makes law or the Beijing government drafts key rules and regulations, such legislative consultation will be initiated, he said.

Ji said that as China is pushing forward reform in the political arena along with ever-deepening reform of its economic system, the CPPCC is playing an important role.

This year, the municipal advisory body will conduct field research and consultation on some fundamental issues concerning the capital's development: the size of its population, the layout of its industries and an urban development plan, as well as how fast and to what extent the reform and opening-up drive should be carried out in Beijing, Ji said.