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Li Lin :Toward harmonious society through rule of law
By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)

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文章摘要:,剔抽禿刷装卸车活像,女猎手剑身纳谏。

Three years ago, Sun Guosheng wanted to pull out his 7-year-old daughter from school because he could not afford to pay the 200 yuan ($28) tuition fees. But the Shaanxi province farmer was in a dilemma after hearing on TV that the Compulsory Education Law was being amended to make pulling out children from or not sending them to school a violation of the law. And then came the good news: tuition fees would be waived for rural students from 2006. It was a huge burden off his shoulders.

In Beijing, it was time for Sun Xian to feel happy because the government was planning a draft employment promotion regulation, banning prejudice against the physically challenged. Sun hoped to find a job after years of struggle.

And in Shanghai, Liu Rui felt relieved after the Labor Contract Law made it clear all employers faced punishment for refusing to sign contracts with their employees. His boss could not refuse to sign a labor contract with him any more, and he wouldn't be denied his rights.

These are just three examples of how legislation and rule of law have changed people's lives in the past five years. They also show the country's critical shift from regulating economic matters to resolving social issues.

The most noticeable of these changes is the approval by the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) of a constitutional amendment that says: "The State respects and protects human rights." Among other regulations is the amendment to return the final verdict in all death sentences to the Supreme People's Court.

The Property Law and the Anti-Monopoly Law are some of the very important legislations passed during the five years of the 10th NPC's tenure from 2003. Equally, or perhaps more, important have been the new or amended laws such as the Labor Contract Law, Employment Promotion Law and the Labor Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Law to protect workers' rights and address social concerns.

Legislations to help build a harmonious society, including raising the personal income tax exemption level and the amendments to provide better protection to women and minors, too have been passed.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' researcher in law Li Lin says that before the 10th NPC took office, only 2 to 6 percent of the new legislations was on social issues, with commercial matters accounting for up to 60 percent. But in the past five years, the share of social legislations' has increased to 20 percent at the NPC level, and as much as 40 percent at the provincial and lower levels.

"The change is visible," says Ying Songnian, China National School of Administration's professor of law and a member of the 10th NPC's Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee. "After society and the economy reaches a certain development level, it's inevitable that the government's focus would shift toward social issues. This trend will continue for the next few years."

Ying's confidence comes from this year's Government Work Report. In it, NPC Chairman Wu Bangguo makes it clear that social affairs will get equal, if not more, importance in legislative matters. "While continuing to improve economic legislation, we must also enact laws on social programs to provide a solid legal foundation for a harmonious society," Wu told the NPC on Saturday.

A migrant workers displays his labor contract as fellow workers in the background check their in Donghai county of Jiangsu province in February. A law that took effect on Jan 1 makes syas employers have to sign labor contracts with their staff to protect the latter from being denied their rights. Mu Daoyong

Though NPC deputies have hailed this as a "correction" of the previous "one leg long and one leg short" legislative imbalance, they say still more needs to be done. Wu Haiying, a deputy from the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, says that in the past five years many deputies have submitted proposals or suggestions on social problems that affect the public directly as the number of commerce-related disputes increase.

Governance, too, has been in focus during the past five years, with the Supervision Law highlighting the NPC's supervisory role over administrative and judicial bodies. Also to be passed is the Administrative Permit Law to cut administrative departments' increasing power and stop them from lining their pockets.

The Administrative Permit Law defines the government bodies empowered to grant permission, issue procedures for seeking permission, conduct tests and decide in specific matters. It specifies the departments authorized to punish violators too. "It's the first separate law on administrative licensing power in the world," Ying says. "It makes it clear that governance is a science, not a rule of thumb."

Government functions have been streamlined at every step to deal with the economic reshuffles as the country moves toward complete reforms because government transparency and rule-based predictability is needed, and legislation is a powerful weapon to ensure that.

To further restrict government power, the 10th NPC Standing Committee in 2006 passed a law to help legislators exercise better supervision over the government. The Supervision Law of Standing Committees of the People's Congresses at Various Levels took effect on January 2007, granting supervision priorities over reforms, opening up and stability and public interest to the legislature.

"Legislation and supervision are the two important duties the Constitution entrusts with people's congresses. The new law will help people's congresses supervise the work of governments, courts and prosecuting organs," says 10th NPC Law Committee director Yang Jingyu. The legislature began drafting the supervision law in 1987, and 4,044 deputies moved 222 motions on stipulation and promulgation in the 20 years that it took to enact it.

But despite considering the two laws as a big step forward, experts concede that stronger efforts are needed to implement them fully. "When governments give up some powers to grant permits, they set up something new," Ying says. "And rules on some specific stipulations haven't been implemented because of several difficulties."

Peking University's professor of law He Weifang says that sometimes a government's powers are so wide and varied that they could affect the proper implementation of laws and regulations. That's why he hopes the Organic Law of the State Council, and the Organic Law of the Local People's Congresses and Local People's Governments would be amended in the next five years to further streamline government agencies and clearly define their powers and duties. "The relationship between the central government and the local governments, too, needs to be addressed."

Ying also hopes the 11th NPC would pass the draft law on administrative procedure to define exactly how governments would exercise their powers. A pilot administrative procedure regulation will soon be implemented in Hunan province, which Ying says will help gather experience for a comprehensive national law.

That by any yardstick is an important step forward.

(China Daily 03/10/2008 page8)