Deputies developing understanding of role
Updated: 2006-03-06 05:44
At home and abroad, there is a growing impression that the country's legislature and political advisory body, the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, are no longer what they appeared to be.
A long time ago, they shared an unfavourable image in Western eyes a "rubber stamp" ready to endorse and resonate whatever came from the Party and government.
That was unfair in the sense that the Chinese political structure is very different from that in Western countries.
There is an increasing aggressiveness among the country's top legislature and political advisory body, which raises a number of questions: What does it mean? Is it a break from the past?
It is a new development, in the sense that both the NPC deputies CPPCC members are presenting something not seen before.
The emergence and increasing numbers of nay-sayers in the two bodies at their annual sessions, who publicly question and challenge government proposals, no longer makes sensational news in our media.
Society has grown so accustomed to the deputies' and members' shows of dissatisfaction that we would feel strange if someone interviewed on TV just says how correct a certain government initiative is.
In fact, unlike what we used to see and hear years back, every NPC deputy and CPPCC member interviewed at the two events seems to have something to say about what is wrong with our society, even if not all of them have a solution.
On the other hand, it is not a break from the past, because neither the missions, nor codes of conduct, of the NPC and CPPCC have changed.
What has changed is the context in which they operate.
The rising pitch of different opinions is a natural outcome of an increasingly diversified society. The broadening spectrum of opinions at the panel discussions in NPC and CPPCC meetings is but a reflection of what is taking place in everyday life.
The course of change is by no means revolutionary. However, the change itself gives hope that NPC deputies and CPPCC members are coming to terms with what they exist for.
Before the Beijing meeting, the Guangdong CPPCC committee dismissed four of its members on the grounds that they failed to carry out their duties.
The move ignited high-profile discourse about what society expects of our political advisers, and legislators.
An emerging consensus is that a seat at the law-making and political advisory bodies should not only be a political honour.
We are glad to see more and more NPC deputies and CPPCC members coming to Beijing to air public concerns in their constituencies and put forward sensible solutions.
There is an NPC initiative to offer its deputies training opportunities to improve their competence. Some local legislatures have reportedly followed suit. Those are very pragmatic efforts to make our system work.
As our legislators and advisers get ready to play their role, they need to know how to do it right.
(China Daily 03/06/2006 page4)