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Common people have more say in legislation
By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-22 06:49

Beijing municipal legislature will open its law-making process wider to the public this year in order to allow ordinary residents a bigger say in the city's legislative process, said a senior lawmaker yesterday.

"The process of drawing up local regulations should allow ordinary people to freely express their opinions and feelings, rather than a closed-door scheme that only a small group of lawmakers can take part in," said Suo Liansheng, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the 12th Beijing Municipal People's Congress.

He said the municipal legislative body would continue to hold public hearings on draft regulations this year.

The capital held its first-ever legislation hearing last September, something that was regarded as a landmark move in the city's democratic drive.

At last year's hearing, 16 citizen representatives had the chance to speak out about the city's regulation for implementing the country's Road Traffic Safety Law.

Suo said the local congress would not hold hearings for each of the 11 draft regulations listed on this year's legislative agenda, but only on those that have direct impact on the daily lives of ordinary citizens.

"For instance, food safety is a hot topic that everybody is concerned about, and a draft on food safety management is expected to be delivered to the municipal legislature for deliberation in November. We plan to hold a hearing on it," said Suo.

He said the municipal people's congress would also set up a legislative think tank involving around 200 legal experts and lawyers next month.

"When we encounter a legal problem in drawing up regulations, we can consult the experts," said Suo.

Yang Xuedong, a political expert with the China Centre for Comparative Politics and Economics, said it was very encouraging to see that the city's lawmakers are becoming more attentive to public opinion.

"Only when public opinions are taken into account can their interests be respected and protected in the regulations. Public participation in the law-making process can help improve the quality of legislation, and the public can have a more comprehensive understanding of the regulations so that they can better follow the clauses," said Yang.

Before the first public hearing last year, the municipal people's congress adopted a number of measures to give ordinary people a voice in the law-making process. These moves included publishing draft regulations on websites to solicit public opinion, and inviting citizen representatives to attend regular conferences as observers.

"The legislation hearings go deeper, touching the core of the city's legislation process," said Yang.

He said he was glad to see that after last year's legislation hearing, more than 60 out of the 108 clauses for the implementation of the Road Traffic Safety Law were revised based on the public's views.

"But the city's legislation hearing system still leaves much to be desired, such as the selection of citizen representatives. And the local congress should give representatives enough time to prepare for a hearing," said Yang.

China's first legislation hearing was held in 1999 in South China's Guangdong Province about a construction project's bidding process.

So far, more than 20 provinces and municipalities around China have held public hearings in legislative process, said Yang.

(China Daily 03/22/2005 page3)

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