After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Unicameral Legislature of NPC 2. Method of Election of Deputies of NPC 3. Tenure 4. Sessions 5. Privileges and Duties of the Deputies 6. Position of the National People’s Congress in China.
Unicameral Legislature of the NPC:
The National People Congress (the NPC) is a unicameral legislature of a unitary state. It consists of nearly 3000 deputies who are elected by the provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the Central Government and the armed forces of China (In 1998, 2974 deputies constituted the NPC).
All citizens of 18 years or above of age have the right to vote. Any voter can seek election regardless of nationality, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property, status or length of residence.
Only persons who have been specifically denied the political right to vote cannot become its members or participate in its elections (Article 34). Under Article 59, all the minority nationalities are entitled to appropriate representation in the NPC. The number of the deputies and the manner of their election are prescribed by law.
Method of Election of Deputies of NPC:
There is nothing like an election commission in China for conducting elections. The responsibility of conducting the elections belongs to the Standing Committee of the NPC. The Constitution requires the Standing Committee to ensure the election of the deputies of the new NPC two months before the expiry of the term of the existing NPC.
If in case of ‘exceptional circumstances’ (emergency), elections cannot be held, the Standing Committee can postpone these by taking a decision with a 2/3rd majority.
In such an eventuality the existing NPC continues to remain in office and its term gets extended. However, elections to the new NPC have to be completed within one year of the end of such ‘exceptional circumstances’. As such, the Standing Committee has the discretion to decide the ‘existence of exceptional circumstances’ warranting a postponement of elections for NPC.
Tenure of the NPC:
The tenure of the NPC is five years. There is no provision for its mid-term dissolution. But in exceptional circumstances, when the Standing Committee decides to postpone elections, its term gets extended till the election of a new NPC.
Sessions of the NPC:
The NPC meets at least once in a year. Its sessions are convened by its Standing Committee. The power to convene the sessions does not belong to the President of the People’s Republic of China. Further, its session can be convened at any time when the Standing Committee deems it necessary, or when more than 1/5th of the deputies so propose.
The Constitution does not provide for the advancement or postponement of a session.
Privileges and Duties of the Deputies:
The deputies of the NPC enjoy certain privileges. No deputy can be arrested or put on criminal trial without the consent of the Presidium of the current session of the NPC or when the NPC is not in session, without the consent of the Standing Committee of the NPC. Further, no deputy can be called to legal account for his speeches or vote in the meetings of the NPC.
Regarding the duties of the Deputies, the Constitution under its Article 76 provides that “they must play an exemplary role in abiding by the Constitution and the law and keeping states secrets and, in production and other work and their public activities, assist in the enforcement of the constitution and the law.”
They are required to maintain close contacts with their electors, listen to their views and convey to the appropriate organs their opinions and demands. They have the foremost duty to serve the people. Further, the deputies are under the supervision of the units which elect them. The electoral units can, through the procedures established by law, recall their deputies.
Position of the National People’s Congress in China:
The powers and functions of the National People’s Congress clearly reflects the high place that the 1982 Constitution of China gives to it as the ‘Highest organ of State Power’. There is no such thing as separation of powers or functions in China and the NPC enjoys powers in all spheres of governmental activity.
It is the supreme law-making agency, supreme electoral agency, and the supreme decision-approving body of the constitutional system. Above all, the NPC has the responsibility to supervise the implementation of the constitution. It alone can amend the constitution.
However, in reality the National People’s Congress is not a strong and active organ of the constitutional system of China. There are several practical limitations on its working, which make it a weak legislature.
(i) Like every other part of the Chinese political system, the National People’s Congress is also dominated by the Communist Party of China, particularly by its top leadership.
(ii) The Standing Committee really exercises the powers of the NPC.
(iii) The unicameral character, the unwieldy size and short and infrequent sessions make it a weak legislature.
(iv) Lack of opposition makes the meetings of the NPC a dull affair. It merely acts as a body giving formal approval to the acts and decisions of its Standing Committee.
Thus, the NPC is a powerful body and the highest organ of State power only in theory. In reality, it is a weak legislature responsible for legalizing the orders and commands of the Communist Party or to be more true and realistic, the commands of the top leaders if not ‘the leader’ of the Communist Party.