China Informed: a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong

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Sat, Mar 8, 1997
The NPC's Agenda

also: Taiwan arrests two for espionage; news from Hong Kong; and more . . .

Please read the statement of purpose.

National People's Congress: the Far Eastern Economic Review has a story on the current session of the National People's Congress where efforts spearheaded by the NPC's chairman, Qiao Shi, will push forward more legal reforms. The Review's Matt Forney writes, for "the past five years Qiao has staked his career on legal reform albeit without threatening party authority." Delegates and China Watchers alike will scrutinize the words given in Qiao's closing speech scheduled for March 14, for any signs of a push to exert more power over Jiang Zemin and the Party. "Qiao has striven to shed the congress's image of a rubber-stamp," Forney writes.

Regardless of what Qiao might do, the agenda in this session has slated to pass a number of legal reforms and laws:

  • removal of a list of "counter-revolutionary" statues from the nation's criminal law. "This is not a human-rights breakthrough," write Forney. Crimes currently charged under this rather broad, ill defined and capricious law will be placed under the 1993 State Security Law. As Forney explains, "the kind of action that harms state security is 'an action harmful to state security', a tautology that covers almost any critical utterance."

  • removal of "counter-revolutionary" crimes as a salient category, says Forney, ipso facto removes the very legal foundation for condemning the Tiananmen uprising in 1989. Forney quotes Chen Guangzhong, former president of the Politics and Law University in Beijing who helped draft the new criminal law. Chen says, the condemnation of the uprising is political, not legal, but the removal of it "could add impetus for a reassessment."

  • the NPC is expected to pass the National Defence Law , drafted by the Central Military Commission. Forney explains, the law would mandate the PLA to crackdown on uprisings and independence activities, including in Taiwan. "China, therefore could insist on 'rule of law' as it scrambles the jets to attack its 'renegade province'," says Forney.

  • the Defence Law will also place the PLA under the "explicit control" of the Communist Party. Although this policy dates back to the 1949 revolution, Forney explains, China's constitution states that the PLA "belongs to the people" and reports "to the State Military Commission, which in turn subordinates itself to the National People's Congress. The party garners no mention." We might keep this contradiction in mind as we watch China implement its legal reforms.

  • the NPC is expected to authorize the refashioning of Sichuan Province's Chongqing into a province in of itself. Forney interprets this move as one by Beijing to wrestle firmer control over Sichuan by "wrenching a major industrial city away from the provincial capital, Chengdu". He also sees it as part of a process of preparing the city for the completion of the Three Gorges dam project in 2009 and the resettlement of the 800,000 people in the greater Chongqing area whose homes will be submerged by the new dam.

Despite this legislation, Forney concludes, no one wants to "send the first ripples from a rocking boat" so soon after Deng Xioaping's passing, and he predicts "serious legal reform will wait for future congresses."

(Note: the Far Eastern Economic Review on-line service is free, but requires that users register with them and login, and therefore first-time users should first introduce themselves on the FEER registration page.)

Party politics: Beijing's mayor Jia Qinglin is making a serious bid for the position of Party Secretary of the capital, reports the South China Morning Post. A Fujian native, the mayor has initiated a number of reforms in the local government, calling for cadres and civil servants to be responsive to the public and, as he said, "strive for altruism and honesty to change the image of the Government." The mayor enjoys the support of Premier Li Peng.

Taiwan: two KMT officials stationed in Macao were arrested last month on charges of espionage. Wu Tao-ming, 65, of the KMT's Overseas Affairs Department and Chang Lu-chung, 61, a retired officer in the party's Mainland Operations department were arrested in Taipei for allegedly supplying PRC agents with information about Taiwan's defence spending and strategies, as well as a list of intelligence officers.

Hong Kong: provisional legislators will draft questions concerning the new budget and address them to the colonial government, reports the South China Morning Post. Although some level of cooperation is likely, the Hong Kong government's position on the illegitimacy of the provisional legislature is quite clear and the Director of Administration Richard Hoare hopes Tung Chee-hwa "would keep to his promise not to put civil servants in a difficult position," as the paper puts it.

In other news from the territory, the provisional legislature will likely wait until after the handover in July to vote on a number of bills put before it. To do otherwise would raise serious legal questions concerning the legislature's authority. Currently convened across the border in Shenzhen, the provisional body has been attacked by the Hong Kong government for undermining the territory's Legislative Council and acting as a "shadow government" at Beijing's behest.

The territory's Democratic Party has charged Beijing with making it difficult for the party to attain a seat in the National People's Congress, and Vice-Premier Qian Qichen has refuted these charges.

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China Informed

a news service focused on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong
©1997 Matthew Sinclair-Day