03/04/2005, 00.00
CHINA

Chinese legislative and consultative institutions (an overview)

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Tomorrow the Third Session of the Tenth National People's Congress opens in Tiananmen Square. It is scheduled to last about two weeks.

In the meantime the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference opened yesterday till March 12.

National People's Congress

The National People's Congress (NPC) is China's highest law-making institution, it has the power to amend the constitution and promulgate laws of 'national significance'.

The 2,985-strong body appoints and dismisses national leaders and government ministers.

Its members come from the country's 31 province-level divisions—22 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities, and 2 special administrative regions (Macau and Hong Kong)—and the military. A small delegation represents Taiwan, which mainland China considers a rebel province, even though none of them live on the island or have been elected by any of the 23 million islanders.

NPC delegates are elected for five years. In principle, any adult over the age of 18 can vote, but often they are simply appointed by provincial officials.

The NPC meets once a year, with a Standing Committee meeting in between the annual plenary sessions to vet laws and perform other duties. The Standing Committee is supported by the Legislative Affairs Commission, as well as three committees, including the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee.

On its annual plenary session the NPC examines the government's economic statement that the Prime Minister submits. It also vets the government's budget, development plan reports as well as proposals from the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

On the last day of the NPC conference, NPC delegates vote on these reports and proposals.

The current NPC president is Wu Bangguo, 63, a former vice Premier; he is considered the second top ranking member of the Communist Party. 

Mr Wu was elected in 2003 replacing Li Peng.

The Congress is subordinate to the Chinese Communist Party. When voting, delegates normally follow the directives of top party officials; occasionally though, some delegates have vented their frustration by voting against. Still  NPC votes are inconsequential since decisions are taken elsewhere.

The NPC holds its sessions in the Great Hall of the People, next to Tiananmen Square. The Hall was built in 1959 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China and can welcome up to 10,000 people.

Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference

Before the NPC was created in 1954, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was the highest national body, responsible for the promulgation of legislation crucial to the founding of the People's Republic.

Today, the CPPCC is not a law-making body and it has no power over the appointment of officials. Many of its members are retired government leaders, scholars, experts and private businesspeople, as well as prominent artists and athletes, who mainly play a consultative role to the leadership. The CPPCC chairman is Jia Qinglin.
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