Man behind completion of China's law system to hand over duties

Updated: 2013-03-05 10:24


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BEIJING - In the Great Hall of the People, Wu Bangguo, China's top legislator, relived a scene that he had been a part of a decade ago, albeit in a reversed role.

Wu announced on Monday that Zhang Dejiang and five other National People's Congress (NPC) deputies had been elected executive chairpersons of the presidium of the first session of the 12th NPC.

It was the last voting announcement made by Wu as chairman of the 11th NPC Standing Committee.

He then invited Zhang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, to preside over the presidium meeting.

The two men shook hands amid a round of applause that didn't cease until Wu was walked out of the conference room by Zhang.

In 2003, Wu was in Zhang's position. Days later, Wu was elected chairman of the 10th NPC Standing Committee and was reelected in 2008.

Wu will deliver a work report for the 11th NPC Standing Committee during the 12th NPC's first session, which opens on Tuesday and will result in the selection of his successor.

Born in 1941 in east China's Anhui Province, Wu Bangguo studied radio at the prestigious Tsinghua University until he graduated in 1967. Prior to his political career, he had worked as a factory operator, porter and furnace attendant.

While remaining low-profile and pragmatic has always been Wu's personal mark, the top legislature under his decade-long watch has been widely acclaimed for achieving legislative breakthroughs and effective supervision.

It was under his watch that China made significant steps in building its system of law. The 10th and 11th NPC adopted nearly 200 bills. On March 10, 2011, Wu declared at the fourth session of the 11th NPC that a socialist system of law with Chinese characteristics has been established.

Over the past decade, China has become the world's second-largest economy and top exporter and now holds the largest amount of foreign reserves. This is common knowledge, but an underlying factor is a series of law amendments and enactments that emerged during that period.

People who have worked under Wu have said that he and his colleagues have always followed the principle of making laws work for the people. It was under this spirit that they established a relatively complete legal framework for ensuring the normal functioning of China's market economy.

It was also during this period that the phrase "respect and protect human rights" was enshrined in the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Law. A policy of promoting cross-strait reunification and opposing Taiwan independence was incorporated into the Anti-Secession Law as well.

Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, said the work done by China's top legislature in the past decade has been "very impressive".

The establishment of a socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics can ensure that there are laws for people to follow, he said, adding that the combination of legislation with public opinion was also a distinguishing feature.

What he described was a legislative process that has evolved to be more democratic and scientific over the past decade.

Law drafts to be deliberated at the NPC Standing Committee will be released online for the purpose of soliciting public opinions. The NPC Standing Committee has held many legislative hearings attended by experts and ordinary citizens as well.

Before feudalism fell apart in China, the country was largely governed by feudal rulers and the concept of rule-by-man was deeply rooted among average Chinese. China did not try to apply a modern and contemporary system of laws until a century ago.

In 1950, the People's Republic of China adopted its first law, the Marriage Law, which won wide public support, as it outlawed arranged marriage, a practice considered to be a legacy from feudal society.

In 1954, China enacted its first Constitution, creating a basis for the government's efforts to build a country ruled by law.

Li Dajin, an NPC deputy, said the country needs to stick to and improve the people's congress system, as it represents Chinese democracy and suits China's national condition.