Upholding the Spirit and Authority of the Constitution

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2013-05-28 18:26
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The current Constitution of the People’s Republic of China holds high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics. As an advanced constitution, it represents the will and wisdom of both the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the people of all ethnical groups, embodies the successful practices of the CPC in its efforts to lead the Chinese people in developing socialism with Chinese characteristics, and also fuses democracy, rule of law, human rights and other fine achievements of human society in line with contemporary trends. China’s constitution is a fine document that does not pale in comparison to that of any other country, developed or developing, capitalist or otherwise. Objectively speaking, we owe this confidence to the great and universally recognized achievements of China’s socialist modernization during more than 30 years of reform and opening up. Integrating the views of the CPC with the common will of the people, China’s constitution has had an instrumental and profoundly deep role to play in China’s success. First, it has established a direction for the efforts of the government and the Chinese nation. By using the Constitution, the country’s most fundamental legal document, to affirm the line of the CPC for the primary stage of socialism, China has created a program under which all of the country’s ethnic groups can come together and work for a common cause. Second, it has promoted the development of socialist democracy. Over the past 30 years, the system of people’s congresses—China’s fundamental political system as prescribed by the Constitution—has been improved on a constant basis. People’s congresses, their standing committees, and deputies at all levels have diligently performed their duties as prescribed by the Constitution, playing an important role in expanding socialist democracy and improving the socialist legal system. In line with the Constitution, the CPC has led the Chinese people in implementing the fundamental principle of the rule of law, and China’s democracy has witnessed unprecedented development. Third, the Constitution has been a driving force behind China’s reform, opening up, and socialist modernization. The Constitution clearly states that China will continue to be in the primary stage of socialism for a long time to come. On this basis, it defines China’s fundamental economic and distribution systems, and clearly states that China must remain committed to reform, opening up, and the development of a socialist market economy. These stipulations therefore constitute a solid legal basis for deepening reform, further opening up the economy, and stimulating development. At the same time, the Constitution also provides for the coordination of material, political, and cultural progress. Being geared towards China’s overall plan for building socialism with Chinese characteristics, namely, economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological progress, the Constitution provides the necessary constitutional foundations for China to constantly expand a scientific path of development that will lead to increased production, prosperity, harmony, and a fine environment. Fourth, the Constitution has promoted human rights progress and social progress. China’s constitution contains comprehensive provisions with regard to the basic rights and obligations of Chinese citizens. As a solid guarantee ensuring that the Chinese people are able to enjoy the rights they are entitled to and participate in national and social affairs actively, creatively, and of their own initiative, the Constitution has been a strong driving force behind social progress in all aspects. China’s momentous achievements over the past three decades serve as an ample proof that China’s constitution is a fine document that reflects objective laws of economic and social development, conforms to China’s national conditions, and displays features typical of the contemporary age.

Students in Tianjin receive copies of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. On September 24, 2012, a coming-of-age activity was held at the Xinhua Middle School in Tianjin. During the ceremony, more than 500 soon to be 18-year-olds took a solemn oath of adulthood. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Zhang Chaoqun

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If we are to realize the great revitalization of the Chinese nation, the “Chinese Dream” that we have clung to since the advent of modern times, we must show our greatest respect for the spirit of our Constitution, and ensure that its provisions are implemented to the fullest. First, the Constitution must be treated with a sense of awe. No matter how high people may reach, they can never reach beyond the law, and no law is greater than the Constitution. The purpose of the law is to restrain people’s behavior. But more than anything else, the law is about people. That is to say, we implement laws and norms so that people may enjoy comprehensive and full development. By “having a sense of awe” for the Constitution, what we mean is that we need to engrave an awareness of the Constitution and the rule of law deep in our hearts, strive to observe the Constitution, and be diligent in our adherence to the various principles and provisions of the Constitution. If our society is to become more aware of the need to understand, respect, and observe the law, our leading officials will need to lead by example. Officials should only demand of the public what they are capable of doing themselves; and leaders should not expect of officials what they are unable to do themselves. Therefore, in line with the requirements set forth in the report to the 18th National Congress of the CPC, we must make our leading officials more adept at applying the principles and methods of law-based governance as they work to deepen reform, promote development, solve problems, and maintain stability. Second, comprehensive efforts need to be made to promote legislation by scientific and democratic means. Legislation by scientific and democratic means is not only a goal that we aspire towards, but also a way of constantly enhancing the quality of our laws, making our laws more implementable, and ensuring the systems we establish by law are sturdy, feasible, and effective. At the same time, by adopting a scientific and democratic approach to legislation, we can ensure that the various parties involved in the legislative process formulate complementary and supporting regulations in the shortest time possible, thereby laying down stronger foundations for the implementation of China’s constitution and its laws. This involves the issue of legislating in strict accordance with the law, which is the primary aspect of the legislative process. Over the past several years, the National People’s Congress (NPC), along with its Standing Committee, has performed its legislative duties in line with the stipulations of the Constitution, the Legislation Law, and other laws. That is to say, all basic laws and important laws over recent years have been deliberated and passed by the National People’s Congress. For example, amendments to important laws such as the Election Law and the Criminal Procedure Law during the present term of government were passed after being submitted to the NPC for deliberation. Third, more needs to be done to exert the role of legislation in guiding and driving forward the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Laws are able to regulate, educate, guarantee, and stimulate. Faced with new circumstances, new tasks, and new challenges, we must give greater emphasis to exerting the role of legislation in guiding and driving forward the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics. In line with the requirements set forth by the 18th National Congress of the CPC, and with an aim to completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, we need to strengthen legislation in key areas and use the formulation of institutions to accelerate the transformation of China’s growth model. These efforts should be directed towards promoting socialist democracy, developing socialist culture, safeguarding and improving the people’s livelihood, and, in particular, resolving the conflicts that exist between economic and social development, the protection of the environment, and the conservation of natural resources. By employing law-based governance, we should approach reform in line with legally prescribed procedures, so as to ensure that legislative decisions and reform decisions are made in synchronization with each other. We need to make our law-making timelier, more relevant, and more systematic, and use legislation as a means of guiding reform and development. 

III

The NPC and its Standing Committee are charged with the important duties of supervising the implementation of the Constitution and the laws of China. Both play an extremely important role in ensuring that laws are made scientifically, enforced stringently, and observed universally. Bearing in mind the overall tasks of the Party and the government, the NPC and its Standing Committee have diligently performed their supervisory duties in recent years. By identifying key areas for supervision, placing an emphasis on the effectiveness of supervision, and enhancing supervision over the implementation of China’s constitution and its laws in line with the legally prescribed methods and procedures, they have promoted the thorough implementation of the CPC Central Committee’s major decisions. For example, we have gradually introduced the practice of holding legal inquiries for specific issues, which has proven highly effective. As required by the Constitution, inquiry procedures are promptly initiated for especially important issues that require in-depth deliberation. This helps to maintain the authority of the Constitution. With regard to legislation, there are several areas in need of improvement. First, progress needs to be made with regard to the registration and review of normative documents. We need to actively explore viable approaches and methods for the registration and review of normative documents, gradually subject a wider range of documents to active reviews, and respond to public suggestions regarding the review of regulations. The registration and review of normative documents should allow us to promptly identify and rectify any provisions in these documents that come into conflict with China’s constitution and its laws. By ensuring that subordinate laws conform to superior laws, we will maintain the uniformity of our legal system and promote the implementation of both the Constitution as well as other laws. Second, more efforts need to be made with regard to the interpretation of laws. In cases where a law requires further clarification, or where a new development leads to doubts over which law should apply, a prompt legislative interpretation must be issued. By making legal provisions more accurate and more tailored to practice, such interpretations should play an important role in guaranteeing that the law in question is able to be effectively implemented. Third, legislative work needs to be further strengthened and improved. Methods such as holding debates prior to the launch of legislative procedures, holding surveys during the process of legislation, and holding evaluations after the passage of laws must be employed in order to ensure that inter-related laws and regulations fit well together and are able to be effectively implemented. All legislative programs must be established with the aim of resolving particular issues. Laws and norms are required to be clear and specific in order to make them more implementable during the course of practice. Instead of attempting to be all-inclusive, laws should only contain as many provisions as they need. The important thing is that laws are effective, and that they are implemented. We should take solid steps to enhance our responses to legal inquiries by affording serious consideration to the problems that various parties highlight during the implementation of laws. Not only staying close to the original legislative intention, we must actively seek solutions that conform to the guiding principles of the law in question, thereby bringing us closer to law-based governance in all aspects of our work. 


(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.1, 2013)

Author: Chairman of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress

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