National People's Congress
The National People's Congress (usually abbreviated NPC) is the highest organ of state power and the national legislature of the People's Republic of China. With 2,980 members in 2018, it is the largest parliamentary body in the world. The National People's Congress meets in full session for roughly two weeks each year and votes on important pieces of legislation. Members are considered to be part-time legislators and are not paid to serve in the NPC.
The NPC is elected for a term of five years. It holds annual sessions every spring, usually lasting from 10 to 14 days, in the Great Hall of the People on the west side of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The NPC's sessions are usually timed to occur with the meetings of the National Committee of the People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a consultative body whose members represent various social groups. As the NPC and the CPPCC are the main deliberative bodies of China, they are often referred to as the Lianghui (Two Sessions).
This includes examining and approving the report on the plan for national economic and social development and on its implementation, report and central budget, and more. The establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Macao Special Administrative Region, Hainan Province and Chongqing Municipality and the building of the Three Gorges Project on the Yangtze River were all decided by the NPC.
One important constitutional principle which is stated in Article 8 of the Legislation Law of the People's Republic of China is that an action can become a crime only as a consequence of a law passed by the full NPC and that other organs of the Chinese government do not have the power to criminalize activity. This principle was used to overturn police regulations on custody and repatriation and has been used to call into question the legality of re-education through labor. In practice, there is no mechanism to verify constitutionality of statute laws, meaning that local administrations could bypass the constitution through Administrative laws.
The NPC meets for about two weeks each year at the same time as the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, usually in the Spring. The combined sessions have been known as the two meetings. Between these sessions, power is exercised by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress which contains about 150 members.
A major bill often takes years to draft, and a bill sometimes will not be put before a final vote if there is significant opposition to the measure. An example of this is the Property Law of the People's Republic of China which was withdrawn from the 2006 legislative agenda after objections that the law did not do enough to protect state property. China's laws are usually submitted for approval after at most three reviews at the NPC Standing Committee. However, the debate of the Property Law has spanned nine years, receiving a record seven reviews at the NPC Standing Committee and stirring hot debates across the country. The long-awaited and highly contested Property Law was finally approved at the Fifth Session of the Tenth National People's Congress (NPC) on 16 March 2007. Among the 2,889 deputies attending the closing session, 2,799 voted for it, 52 against it, 37 abstained and one didn't vote.
Under the one country, two systems policy, the Communist Party of China does not operate in Hong Kong or Macau, and none of the delegates from Hong Kong and Macau are formally affiliated with the CCP. However, the electoral committee which elects the Hong Kong and Macau delegates are mainly supporters of the pro-Beijing pan-establishment camp, and so far, all of the candidates that have been elected from Hong Kong and Macau are from the pro-Beijing pan-establishment camp.
The People's Liberation Army has had a large delegation since the founding of the NPC, making up anywhere from 4 percent of the total delegates (3rd NPC), to 17 percent (4th NPC). Since the 5th NPC, it has usually held about 9 percent of the total delegate seats, and is consistently the largest delegation in the NPC. In the 12th NPC, for example, the PLA delegation has 268 members; the next largest delegation is Shandong, with 175 members.
Under the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the Communist Party of China is guaranteed a leadership role, and the National People's Congress therefore does not serve as a forum of debate between government and opposition parties as is the case with Western parliaments. At the same time, the Constitution makes the Party subordinate to laws passed by the National People's Congress, and the NPC has been the forum for debates and conflict resolution between different interest groups. The Communist Party maintains control over the NPC by controlling delegate selection, maintaining control over the legislative agenda, and controlling the constitutional amendment process.
One such mechanism is the limit on the number of candidates in proportion to the number of seats available. At the national level, for example, a maximum of 110 candidates are allowed per 100 seats; at the provincial level, this ratio is 120 candidates per 100 seats. This ratio increases for each lower level of people's congresses, until the lowest level, the village level, has no limit on the number of candidates for each seat. However, the Congress website says "In an indirect election, the number of candidates should exceed the number to be elected by 20% to 50%." The practice of having more candidates than seats for NPC delegate positions has become standard, and it is different from Soviet practice in which all delegates positions were selected by the Party center. Although the limits on member selection allows the Party leadership to block unacceptable candidates, it also causes unpopular candidates to be removed in the electoral process. Direct and explicit challenges to the rule of the Communist Party are not tolerated, but are unlikely in any event due to the control the party center has on delegate selection.