Chinese legislature discusses draft laws

China’s top legislature opened its bimonthly session Monday to deliberate draft laws and amendments concerning civil procedure, mental health, the safety of special equipment and tourism, among others.

A draft law on mental health, tabled for a second reading, stipulates that institutions and individuals should protect the privacy of mentally ill people by preventing leaks of private information, such as their names, addresses and employment status.

The draft law was submitted Monday at the five-day session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s top legislature, after its first reading in October last year.

The draft, which is expected to eliminate abuses regarding compulsory mental health treatment, allows patients and their relatives to lodge lawsuits against the government, medical institutions and individuals if they feel their legal rights have been harmed.

The draft also requires the government to provide special support for mental illness treatment in rural and poverty-stricken regions and provide more funding for medical facilities at community and village level.

A draft amendment to the Civil Procedure Law tabled for a third reading allows third parties to appeal court decisions if they have evidence that the court’s verdict, ruling or mediation has violated their rights and interests.

The draft also revises the amount of money people can seek in small claims courts to 30 percent of the average yearly wage in the province, autonomous region or municipality in which the case is heard.

A draft law on tourism that aims to promote the development of the country’s booming travel industry includes operating standards for travel-related businesses and scenic areas, as well as a clause prohibiting travel agencies from forcing tourists to purchase goods.

“A tourism law is urgently needed to regulate the tourism market and foster its healthy and sustainable development,” said Yin Zhongqing, a senior legislator, while explaining the draft at the meeting.

Unfair competition remains a “relatively severe” challenge for China’s travel sector, “especially the rampant practice of ‘zero- or negative-fare tours,’ which undermine the legitimate interests of tourists and businesses,” Yin said.

“Zero- or negative-fare tours” usually refers to tour services sold by travel agents at or below cost in order to attract travelers, who are later forced to purchase goods or tip the agents during the tour.

A draft amendment to the Laws on the Popularization of Agricultural Technology stipulates that government at all levels should introduce key agricultural technology and implement monitoring and prevention over crop pests and agricultural disasters.

China will increase the investment in agricultural technology and governments at all levels should guarantee the funds to popularize agricultural technology, the draft says.

A draft law on the safety of special equipment, or equipment that operates under high pressure, temperature or speed with a potential threat to public safety, specifies supervisory measures as well as primary responsibilities for manufacturers and operators of the equipment.

Also on the agenda is the reading of a draft amendment to the Environmental Protection Law, which adds a clause that calls for governments and environmental protection departments to release information concerning environmental quality, pollution-related accidents and the collection and use of pollutant discharge fees to the public, as well as allows the public to request related information.

At Monday’s meeting, legislators also heard reports on the enforcement of the Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons and the post-legislation evaluation of the law.

Legislators furthermore deliberated on some personnel appointments and removals at the meeting, which was presided over by NPC Standing Committee Chairman Wu Bangguo.

Xinhua