Social ills get their turn in spotlight

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-02-28 07:12

The country's legislative agenda for the coming year looks set to focus more on social concerns than in previous years, reflecting official efforts to ensure a harmonious society.

According to the annual legislative plan released yesterday by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, about half of the 20 draft laws or amendments to be discussed this year touch on social problems.

Among them are draft laws covering labor contracts, social insurance, employment, food safety, the environment, energy conservation and responses to public emergencies.

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By contrast, five of the 18 draft laws discussed during last year's session addressed social issues.

The plan also lists three economic draft laws to be deliberated by the NPC, a sharp decrease from the eight on last year's agenda. The new drafts deal with property rights, taxation and urban and rural development.

"Because China now places economic growth and social development on an equal footing, there will be more laws dealing with social issues in the next few years," the committee wrote in its plan.

According to the plan, China will have 230 laws on the books by early next year.

The committee's plan also said the country would do more to improve the legal system and human rights conditions this year.

Legislators will amend the Civil Procedure Law, Criminal Procedure Law and the Lawyers Law, which sets qualifications for lawyers, according to the plan. It is believed that the amendments will streamline the legal process.

The drafts of the property law and corporate income tax law to be deliberated at the upcoming fifth session of the 10th NPC next month are sure to be the most eye-catching new pieces of legislation.

According to Legislation Law, only laws that affect the country's legal system can be submitted to the full session of the NPC.
Timetable for discussion: China's laws

Twenty draft laws and law amendments are to be discussed this year:

February: Employment promotion law
March: Property law; corporate income tax law
April: Labor dispute arbitration law; town and country planning law
June: Labor contract law; amendment to the Energy Saving Law; amendment to the Lawyer Law; amendment to the Civil Procedure Law
August: Circular economy law; 7th amendment to the Criminal Law; amendment to the Law on Science and Technology Progress
October: Illegal acts corrective law; amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law
December: Social insurance law; amendment to the Food Safety Law
The draft emergency response law, administrative mandatory law, anti-drug law and anti-monopoly law will also be discussed this year, but no specific schedule is presently available.

If passed, the property law, which received a record-setting seven readings by the NPC Standing Committee, will be the country's first law to protect both public and private ownership. The tax law will place foreign and domestic business on a "level playing field" by unifying the corporate income tax at 25 percent.

The committee also said yesterday that it would hear and discuss eight work reports from the State Council this year. The reports deal with subjects ranging from environmental protection, food safety, health system reform and rural development to the protection of the rights of employees.

(China Daily 02/28/2007 page3)

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