Legal special: 1982 Constitution of the People's Republic of China

Updated: 2013-01-07 07:41

By Wang Shuguang (China Daily)

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Since the founding of the new China 1949, four Constitutions have been issued - in 1954, 1975, 1978 and 1982.

The current Constitution from 1982 is made up of 138 articles that include a preamble, general principles, fundamental rights and duties of citizens and the structure of the state along with the national flag, national anthem, national emblem and capital.

The 1982 Constitution was amended in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004 to better fit the rapid development of China.

Practices over the past 30 years prove this is a good Constitution suiting China's national conditions, which plays an extremely important role in guaranteeing reform and opening-up, socialist modernization, socialist democracy construction, socialist legal system construction and human rights causes.

Preamble

The Constitution preamble records the history and achievements of China's revolution and construction since 1840 and analyzes the historical necessity of the Communist Party of China's leadership in leading the nation to achieve the success of the new democratic revolution and socialist causes under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and Three Represents Thought.

The preamble confirms China will stay in the primary stage of socialism for a long time and the basic task of the nation is to concentrate its efforts on socialist modernization on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, the Chinese people of all nationalities will continue to adhere to the people's democratic dictatorship and follow the socialist road, steadily improve socialist institutions, develop socialist democracy, improve the socialist legal system and work hard and self reliantly to modernize industry, agriculture, national defense and science and technology to turn China into a socialist country with a high level of culture and democracy.

The preamble also stipulates that people of all nationalities, all state organs, the armed forces, all political parties and public organizations and all enterprises and undertakings in the country must take the Constitution as the basic norm of conduct and have the duty to uphold the dignity of the Constitution and ensure its implementation.

General principles

The PRC is a socialist state under the people's democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants.

The socialist system is the basic system of the PRC. Sabotage of the socialist system by any organization or individual is prohibited.

All power in the PRC belongs to the people.

The organs through which the people exercise state power are the National People's Congress and the local people's congresses at different levels.

The people administer state affairs and manage economic, cultural and social affairs through various channels and in various ways in accordance with the law.

The state organs of the PRC apply the principle of democratic centralism.

The National People's Congress and the local people's congresses at different levels are instituted through democratic elections.

They are responsible to the people and subject to their supervision.

All administrative, judicial and procuratorial organs of the state are created by the people's congresses to which they are responsible and under whose supervision they operate.

The division of functions and powers between the central and local state organs is guided by the principle of giving full play to the initiative and enthusiasm of local authorities under the unified leadership of central authorities.

A special administrative region can be established when necessary.

The Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR are just two cases in point. Ethnic autonomous regions are established for ethnic minorities to exercise their self-governance in the places of their residences.

The basis of the socialist economic system of the PRC is socialist public ownership of the means of production, namely, ownership by the whole people and collective ownership by the working people.

The system of socialist public ownership supersedes the system of exploitation of man by man; it applies the principle of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his work".

During the primary stage of socialism, the state adheres to the basic economic system with public ownership remaining dominant and diverse sectors of the economy developing side by side, and to a distribution system with the distribution according to work remaining dominant amid the coexisting variety of modes of distribution.

Rural collective economic organizations practice a double-tier management system that combines unified and separate operations using the household-based output-related contracted responsibility system.

Various forms of the cooperative economy in rural areas such as producers, suppliers, marketing, credit and consumer cooperatives belong to the sector of the socialist economy under collective ownership by the working people.

Individual, private and other non-public economies that exist within the limits prescribed by law are major components of the socialist market economy.

The state protects the lawful rights and interests of individual and private economies, and guides, supervises and administers individual and private economies.

The state has put into practice a socialist market economy.

Economic activities should follow laws of demand and supply, and resource allocations should be balanced through price leverage and competition. The state strengthens economic laws, improves macro adjustment and controls and promotes the formation of a healthy, unified, open, competitive and orderly modern market economic system.

The Constitution stipulates that China should be ruled by law and the principle that China should be constructed as a socialist country ruled by law.

No law or administrative or local rules and regulations shall contravene the Constitution.

All state organs, the armed forces, all political parties and public organizations and all enterprises and undertakings must abide by the Constitution and the law.

All acts in violation of the Constitution and the law must be investigated.

No organization or individual may enjoy the privilege of being above the Constitution and the law.

The Constitution also stipulates the state's basic policies in developing education, natural sciences, medical and health services, development of literature and culture, environmental protection, forestation, family planning, sports activities, etc.

Fundamental rights and duties of citizens

All persons holding the nationality of the PRC are citizens of the PRC. All citizens of the PRC are equal before the law.

Every citizen enjoys the rights and at the same time must perform the duties prescribed by the Constitution and the law.

The Constitution's rules on citizen rights and duties are its core contents. There are two basic principles: all citizens of the PRC are equal before the law and the state respects and protects citizen human rights.

Meanwhile, all citizens must undertake their legal duties while enjoying their legal rights.

Citizen exercise of freedoms and rights may not infringe upon the interests of the state, of society and of the collective, or upon the lawful freedoms and rights of other citizens.

Fundamental rights of citizens

Citizens of the PRC enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.

Citizens of the PRC enjoy freedom of religious belief. The freedom of the person is inviolable.

Homes of citizens of the PRC are inviolable. Freedom and privacy in correspondence by citizens of the PRC are protected by law. Citizens of the PRC have the right to criticize and make suggestions to any state organ or functionary.

Citizens of the PRC have the right as well as the duty to work. Working people in the PRC have the right to rest.

The state prescribes by law the system of retirement for workers and staff in enterprises and undertakings and for functionaries of organs of the state.

Citizens of the PRC have the right to material assistance from the state and society when they are old, ill or disabled.

Citizens of the PRC have the duty as well as the right to receive education. Citizens of the PRC have the freedom to engage in scientific research, literary and artistic creation and other cultural pursuits. Women in the PRC enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life, political, economic, cultural and social, and family life.

Marriage, the family, and mother and child are protected by the state. The PRC protects the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals residing abroad and protects the lawful rights and the interests of returned overseas Chinese and of the family members of Chinese nationals residing abroad.

Fundamental duties of citizens

It is the duty of citizens of the PRC to safeguard the unity of the country and the unity of all its nationalities.

Citizens of the PRC must abide by the Constitution and the law, keep state secrets, protect public property and observe labor discipline and public order and respect social ethics.

It is the duty of citizens of the PRC to safeguard the security, honor and interests of the motherland; they must not commit acts detrimental to the security, honor and interests of the motherland. It is the sacred obligation of every citizen of the PRC to defend the motherland and resist aggression. It is the honorable duty of citizens of the PRC to perform military service and join the militia in accordance with the law. It is the duty of citizens of the PRC to pay taxes in accordance with the law.

Structure of the state

The National People's Congress of the PRC is the highest organ of state power. Its permanent body is the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The congress and its Standing Committee exercise the legislative power of the state. The National People's Congress is composed of deputies elected by the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government, and by the armed forces. All minority nationalities are entitled to appropriate representation. Election of deputies to the National People's Congress is conducted by the Standing Committee of the congress. The number of deputies to the congress and the manner of their election are prescribed by law.

The National People's Congress is elected for a term of five years. Two months before the expiration of the term of office of a National People's Congress, its Standing Committee must ensure that the election of deputies to the succeeding National People's Congress is completed. Should exceptional circumstances prevent such an election, it may be postponed by decision of a majority vote of more than two- thirds of all those on the Standing Committee of the incumbent National People's Congress, and the term of office of the incumbent National People's Congress may be extended. The election of deputies to the succeeding National People's Congress must be completed within one year after the termination of such exceptional circumstances.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is composed of the following: chairman; vice-chairmen; secretary-general; and members. Minority nationalities are entitled to appropriate representation on the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The National People's Congress elects, and has the power to recall, all those on its Standing Committee. No one on the Standing Committee of the congress shall hold any post in any of the administrative, judicial or procuratorial organs of the state.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is elected for the same term as the National People's Congress; it exercises its functions and powers until a new Standing Committee is elected by the succeeding National People's Congress. The chairman and vice-chairmen of the Standing Committee shall serve no more than two consecutive terms. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress exercises the following functions and powers: To interpret the Constitution and supervise its enforcement; to enact and amend statutes with the exception of those which should be enacted by the National People's Congress, etc.

The president of the PRC, in pursuance of decisions made by the National People's Congress and its Standing Committee, promulgates statutes; appoints and removes the premier, vice-premiers, state councilors, ministers in charge of ministries or commissions, and the auditor-general and the secretary-general of the State Council; confers state medals and titles of honor; issues orders for special pardons; proclaims martial law; proclaims a state of war; and issues mobilization orders. The president of the PRC receives foreign diplomatic representatives on behalf of the PRC and, in pursuance of decisions made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, appoints and recalls plenipotentiary representatives abroad, and ratifies and abrogates treaties and important agreements concluded with foreign states.

The State Council, that is the Central People's Government of the PRC, is the executive body of the highest organ of state power; it is the highest organ of state administration.

The Central Military Commission of the PRC directs the armed forces of the country. The Central Military Commission is composed of the following: chairman; vice-chairmen; and members. The Chairman of the Central Military Commission has overall responsibility for the commission. The term of office of the Central Military Commission is the same as that of the National People's Congress.

People's congresses and people's governments are established in provinces, municipalities directly under the Central Government. The organization of local people's congresses and local people's governments at different levels is prescribed by law. Organs of self-government are established in autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties. The organization and working procedures of organs of self-government are prescribed by law.

Local people's congresses at different levels ensure the observance and implementation of the Constitution, the statutes and the administrative rules and regulations in their respective administrative areas. Within the limits of their authority as prescribed by law, they adopt and issue resolutions and examine and decide on plans for local economic and cultural development and for development of public services.

Local people's congresses at and above the county level examine and approve the plans for economic and social development and the budgets of their respective administrative areas, and examine and approve reports on their implementation. They have the power to alter or annul inappropriate decisions of their own standing committees. The people's congresses of nationality townships may, within the limits of their authority as prescribed by law, take specific measures suited to the peculiarities of the nationalities concerned.

The people's congresses of provinces and municipalities directly under the Central Government, and their standing committees may adopt local regulations, which must not contravene the Constitution, the statutes and the administrative rules and regulations, and they shall report such local regulations to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for the record.

At their respective levels, local people's congresses elect and have the power to recall governors and deputy governors, mayors and deputy mayors, heads and deputy heads of counties, districts, townships and towns. Local people's congresses at and above the county level elect and have the power to recall presidents of people's courts and chief procurators of people's procuratorates at the corresponding level. The election or recall of chief procurators of people's procuratorates shall be reported to the chief procurators of the people's procuratorates at the next higher level for submission to the standing committees of the people's congresses at the corresponding level for approval.

The organs of self-government of national autonomous areas are the people's congresses and people's governments of autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures and autonomous counties.

In the people's congress of an autonomous region, prefecture or county, in addition to the deputies of the nationality or nationalities exercising regional autonomy in the administrative area, the other nationalities inhabiting the area are also entitled to appropriate representation. The chairmanship and vice-chairmanships of the standing committee of the people's congress of an autonomous region, prefecture or county shall include a citizen or citizens of the nationality or nationalities exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. The administrative head of an autonomous region, prefecture or county shall be a citizen of the nationality, or of one of the nationalities, exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned.

The residents' committees and villagers' committees established among urban and rural residents on the basis of their place of residence are mass organizations of self-management at the grass-roots level. The chairman, vice-chairmen and members of each residents' or villagers' committee are elected by the residents. The relationship between the residents' and villagers' committees and the grass-roots organs of state power is prescribed by law.

The residents' and villagers' committees establish committees for people's mediation, public security, public health and other matters in order to manage public affairs and social services in their areas, mediate civil disputes, help maintain public order and convey residents' opinions and demands and make suggestion to the people's government.

The people's courts in the PRC are the judicial organs of the State. The PRC establishes the Supreme People's Court and the local people's courts at different levels, military courts and other special people's courts. The term of office of the President of the Supreme People's Court is the same as that of the National People's Congress; he shall serve no more than two consecutive terms. The organization of people's courts is prescribed by law.

The people's procuratorates of the PRC are state organs for legal supervision. PRC establishes the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the local people's procuratorates at different levels, military procuratorates and other special people's procuratorates.

The organization of people's procuratorates is prescribed by law. People's procuratorates shall, in accordance with the law, exercise procuratorial power independently and are not subject to interference by administrative organs, public organizations or individuals.

The Supreme People's Procuratorate is the highest procuratorial organ. The Supreme People's Procuratorate directs the work of the local people's procuratorates at different levels and of the special people's procuratorates; people's procuratorates at higher levels direct the work of those at lower levels.

The Supreme People's Procuratorate is responsible to the National People's Congress and its Standing Committee. Local people's procuratorates at different levels are responsible to the organs of state power at the corresponding levels that created them and to the people's procuratorates at the higher level.

National flag, national anthem, national emblem and capital

The national flag of the PRC is a red flag with five stars. The national anthem of the PRC is the March of the Volunteers. The national emblem of the PRC is Tian'anmen in the center illuminated by five stars and encircled by ears of grain and a cogwheel. The capital of the PRC is Beijing.

The author is with Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

For China Daily

(China Daily 01/07/2013 page4)

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