BEIJING — A total of 284 Chinese cities may have the power to make local laws, according to a draft revision to the Legislation Law, tabled for reading at the ongoing national legislative session on March 8.
So far only 49 cities have legislative power, including 27 provincial and autonomous regional capitals, four cities in special economic zones and 18 cities selected by the State Council.
Although the bill expands legislative power to 235 more cities, it imposes strict limitation in a bid to avoid overlapping and maintain the unity of the legal system, said Li Jianguo, vice chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, when elaborating the bill to NPC deputies.
They are only allowed to issue local laws about “rural and urban development and management, environmental protection, and preservation of historical heritage and cultural values,” according to the bill.
Considering that there is a huge number of cities and their conditions vary a lot, the bill suggests that the legislative power be granted step by step.
It entrusts provincial legislatures to determine how and when the cities will be granted the power, based on their population, territory, social and economic development, the need for legislation and the legislative capacity.
Also, it regulates that autonomous prefectures of ethnic minorities should enjoy the same local legislative powers as those cities.
However, there are still three cities that share similar economic and demographic situations with the 284 ones but are excluded because of administrative formalities, Li said.
The NPC Standing Committee suggested the NPC deputies consider granting them legislative power as well, he said.
Ying Songnian, professor with China University of Political Science and Law told Xinhua that more and more Chinese cities find themselves in great need of local laws to better address their own problems as a national law is too rigid to do so.
“In a large and populous country like China, different cities could have completely different priorities and problems. It is more efficient to let locals decide their own affairs,” he said.
The bill has already gone through two readings at the NPC Standing Committee in August and December.
It is a rare arrangement as most of the laws are read and adopted by the 171-member NPC Standing Committee at its bi-monthly session.