Domestic issues on the National People's Congress agenda

National People's Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying speaks during a press conference ahead of the opening of the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 4, 2017.
National People's Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying speaks during a press conference ahead of the opening of the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 4, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), begins its annual session on Sunday (March 5) and NPC spokesperson Fu Ying met the press on Saturday to give a preview of what is to come.

Amending the general provisions of China's civil law

After 30 years of rapid development, the current general principles of the civil law, formulated in 1986, require updating.

For example, the issue of children who have been left behind in rural areas, and the trend of an aging population have been under the media spotlight.

The NPC will propose changes to improve the guardianship system and expand its scope, especially in terms of protecting the incapacitated elderly, said Ms Fu.

Changes will also be made to include new types of legal persons. Rural collective economic units, village committees and urban residence committees have been granted special legal persons status, she added.

 
 
 

The general provisions will provide an overarching framework for the civil code, which would be made up of separate existing civil laws. The code will be ready by 2020.

"This will be vital to advancing every aspects of the rule of law in China," said Ms Fu.

Fighting smog

Ms Fu acknowledges that fighting smog is a long-term challenge that China faces.

"As far as the NPC is concerned, we must continue to strengthen our legal framework on environmental protection and we need to supervise the enforcement of laws once they are enacted," said Ms Fu.

She noted the efforts and progress made by all levels of the government, private enterprises and the general public in fighting smog. But they still fall short of people's expectations.

Things are particularly bad in the winter months, but we must carry on with the fight and move it towards a good direction, she said.

Besides air pollution, some parts of the country face serious water and land pollution. She told reporters that this year, the NPC standing committee will be revising the law on water pollution treatment control and soil pollution treatment and control.

Lowering companies' burden

The slowing economy and the changing global environment have made companies more sensitive towards taxes and fees. Reducing the burden on companies is important to revive the economy and is one of the key challenges that needs to be addressed through reforms, said Ms Fu.

She added that the NPC is revising the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) promotion laws to reduce the cost burden on SMEs. Enacted in 2003, the law aims to develop SMEs, including ensuring a level playing field for them.

This year, the NPC standing committee will also look into the issue of non-tax revenues in order to introduce a law-based management of such revenues.

China aims to achieve full statutory taxation by 2020. This means that the type of taxes, tax rates and from whom they are collected, will be based on laws passed by the NPC.

All these are meant to provide a good environment for the healthy development of private companies, Ms Fu added.

No property tax on the cards

There are no plans for the NPC to deliberate on a possible property tax Bill this year, though it plans to pass such a law in the next five years, Ms Fu told reporters.

"There have been a lot of discussion on this issue, as such a Bill covers a wide area and involves a wide range of interests," she noted.

China has introduced a pilot property tax programme in southwestern Chongqing and Shanghai in 2010 in efforts to cool the overheating property market.

The third plenary session of the Chinese Communist Party's central committee has said in 2013 that legislation of property tax would be accelerated.

Measures to support two-child policy

As China implements the two-child policy, the relevant policies and services need to be upgraded, said Ms Fu. She noted that maternity and childcare services cannot fully meet the current needs. Public and social resources need to be upgraded quickly to serve the new needs, she added.

Food and transportation safety

The NPC's standing committee has carried out 20 law enforcement inspections in the past four years in areas including food and transportation safety.

This year's subject of supervision includes drug management law, which is a big interest of all people; product quality law; as well as minor's protection law, said Ms Fu.