NPC to discuss landmark civil code
China's first civil code is expected to be unveiled at the annual session of the nation's top legislature, which is due to open on May 22.
After about five years of work, the full text of the draft civil code will be submitted to the third session of the 13th National People's Congress for deliberation, Zhang Yesui, spokesman of the session, said on May 21.
"Civil rules and regulations govern civil relations, and the civil code is an encyclopedia for social activities and also a key legal instrument to protect people's rights," he said. "The life and work of every citizen and the registration and operation of every business are regulated by the civil code."
The draft civil code consists of general provisions and six sections on property, contracts, personality rights, marriage and family, inheritance and torts, he said.
As a legislative task raised by the central leadership, the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee began drafting the law in 2015 and divided it into two major parts, according to the NPC.
The first part, the general provisions, which clarifies basic civil principles, rights and duties, was adopted in March 2017 after being deliberated at the fifth session of the 12th NPC.
Since August 2018, the drafts of six individual sections have been consecutively submitted to the NPC Standing Committee for discussion. It also sought opinions from the public on the drafts. As of the end of last year, all of the sections had been reviewed three times by the NPC Standing Committee.
In December, the commission made several minor changes to the general provisions and then combined it with the six individual sections to form the full text of the draft civil code. The draft code has 1,260 articles and will be submitted to this year's NPC session for review.
In China, generally speaking, a draft becomes law after being reviewed three times by the NPC Standing Committee. But if a law is closely related with people's interests and fundamental national issues, such as the Constitution and the draft civil code, it will need to be reviewed by all NPC members instead of being adopted by the NPC Standing Committee.
The draft civil code "will be a milestone in China's legal system and start a new era of the rule of law", said Wang Yi, president of the law school at Renmin University of China.
Wang said the draft responds to many major social issues and new problems, such as how to regulate human genes or embryos, banning illegal entry, spying on and filming others' private spaces and banning people from throwing objects from tall buildings.
"Drafting such a complicated and fundamental law reflects our country's growing respect for people's interests and our enhanced legislative capacity," he added.
Cheng Xiao, a law professor at Tsinghua University, said having such a civil code has been a dream of legal professionals for generations.
"People won't need to know criminal and administrative laws if they don't commit a crime or disobey rules. But they have to know about the civil law, as it matters to everyone's life, such as their marriage, employment, buying property and inheriting family assets."
If the draft can be passed this time, some existing civil laws, including those on marriage, inheritance, contract and property, will be abolished, according to Shi Hong, a senior legislator from the commission.
But some civil laws used for regulating civil behavior in certain special sectors, such as those focusing on the securities market, corporations and intellectual property protection, which are not included in the civil code, will remain valid, he said.