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NPC expected to pass general provisions of new civil law

(Global Times) Updated : 2017-03-03

As China's top legislature and top political advisory body convene their annual "two sessions" over the weekend in Beijing, one of the draft laws protecting the civil rights of the people is highly anticipated to be passed by the National People's Congress (NPC).

The law, called "General Provisions of Civil Law," covers comprehensive areas of legal regulations concerning people's civil life, and is seen as a big step forward in the legal system to better protect the civil activities of society.

NPC expected to pass general provisions of new civil law

Policemen march across Tiananmen Square in Beijing, capital of China on February 28, 2017. China's armed police, SWAT teams and other police units have strengthened patrol at Tiananmen Square and nearby areas to ensure the smooth running of the fifth session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) and the fifth session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), or the two sessions.Photo: CFP

China's current General Principles of the Civil Law has been in place since 1986. Though it was amended once in 2009, many of its articles have become obsolete or inapplicable as a result of fast economic development and dramatic social changes since China's reform and opening up.

If approved, the General Provisions will provide a framework for interpreting some 200 current civil and commercial laws, said Wang Liming, a civil-law professor at the Renmin University of China and also a former member of the NPC's law committee.

The draft provisions were first submitted to the NPC Standing Committee in June 2016, and has since received 70,227 suggestions after being released to the public.

So far the law has gone through three revisions and has been submitted to the NPC.

Personal information protected

The third draft has for the first time stated that people's personal information is protected by law, though there are existing regulations governing protection of personal information.

The draft has been hailed by experts as a move that reflects the legal trend of respecting individuals' privacy and their legal rights in the era of the Internet and big data.

"No individual shall illegally collect, use, process and transmit personal information, nor should they illegally trade, disseminate or disclose any personal information," reads article 110 of the third draft.

The draft also clarifies protection of data and virtual properties.

"An individual should have full control over the disclosure of his or her personal information, especially in the era of the Internet when the protection of personal information has become a challenge," Tong Qiang, a civil law professor at Peking University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The leakage of personal information has been related to a lot of criminal cases, such as telecom fraud, that have brought huge economic losses to the victims and hampered social stability, Tong said.

China's Ministry of Public Security nabbed 3,300 people for stealing and trading private information of citizens via the Internet in a national campaign in September 2016.

Some of the articles of the draft law have sparked controversy, including the recognition that fetuses have the capacity to enjoy civil rights, and recognizing children above 6 years old as having limited civil capacity of conduct, which was previously 10 years old.

Supporters say the change will be helpful in protecting the rights of juveniles, while some argue that 6-year-olds are not mature enough to take responsibility for their decisions.

The draft also for the first time stated that the spouse and children should be the custodian of those who are incapable of civil conduct, which accords with the need for an aging society, Wang said.

The core value of civil law is the care for human beings, and the final goal is to support individual's integrity and development, and the civil law system should ensure the protection of integrity and freedom, Wang said.

The biggest value of the draft provisions, as Tong said, is that they specify and advocate protection of the legal rights for individuals and other civil entities in society, serving as guidelines for the enforcement of current laws and regulations and for future legislation in the realm of civil rights.