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Amended law signals wider legal reform

By Zhang Yi (China Daily)

Updated: 2015-03-17 08:19:57


Amended law signals wider legal reform

A reporter raises a hand to ask a question during a media briefing about the amendment to the Legislation Law. The amendment is a huge step forward because it is aimed at preventing the abuse of administrative power. Li Xin / Xinhua

Meeting local demand

Ma said the amended law would meet the rising clamor from cities to manage their own affairs, arguing that national laws fail to meet specific local needs. "Many cities have populations of more than 8 million, so it's more efficient to let locals decide their own affairs, such as city management, environmental protection and public services," he said, adding that the delegation of legislative power to the cities doesn't extend to regulatory matters, such as regional economic and political development.

To better protect people's legitimate rights, the amendment also makes it clear that the imposition of extra legal burdens must be set out in a written law-a move aimed at preventing the abuse of administrative power-and that the basic system of taxation and the levying or withdrawal of taxes must accord with the relevant legislation.

At present, taxes, as legal obligations imposed on individual or businesses, lack adequate legal fallback. Only three of the 18 national taxes-those relating to individual income tax, corporate income tax, and vehicle and vessel tax-were formulated legally, and the other 15 were based on local government regulations and have no basis in law.

Other facets are similarly confusing, with local governments imposing their own regulations on property purchases, and restricting motorists' access to certain roads in accordance with local policies, which often run counter to the written, national law.

The amendment will allow local governments to formulate regulations to increase the legal obligations on citizens "if and when required by the local government" but orders local governments to propose new laws to the local people's congresses or their standing committees. If local regulations remain in place for two years they will be placed on the statute books.

Governments at all levels have comprehensive administrative power, but their legislative authority should be limited to avoid the abuse of power, said Yu An, a law professor at Tsinghua University's School of Public Policy and Management.

The revision is a great step forward for the rule of law because it places legal controls on the exercise of power, Yu said. Local governments will no longer be allowed to formulate policies to increase the legal obligations on residents, and all policies will have to be administered in strict accordance with the law.

Wu Xiaoling, a member of the NPC's Financial and Economic Committee, said the amendment clearly compartmentalizes legislative rights and specifies legislative procedures, and will help ensure that laws are drawn up in a scientific, democratic way.

Chen Shaoze, an NPC deputy, said the amendment will open a new chapter in the rule of law, and detailed regulations will soon be set out under the principles of the amended Legislation Law.

Fu Ying, a spokeswoman for the NPC, said this year was the first time in two years that the deputies had discussed and voted for a major amendment to a law, because changes are usually made by the NPC standing committee and only those likely to have a profound influence on the country's legal system are brought before the deputies.

"It was the first time that the legislative process had been made fully transparent to the public, reflecting the progress that's being made to strengthen the rule of law," she said.

Contact the writer at zhang_yi@chinadaily.com.cn