Lo­cal leg­is­la­tors to the fore

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

THE SCRU­TINY OF THE PRO­POSED OR­DI­NANCE on air pol­lu­tion preven­tion by Bei­jing mu­nic­i­pal peo­ple’s congress is hardly newsy, be­cause the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing air qual­ity in the city de­serves to be a leg­isla­tive pri­or­ity and, more im­por­tantly, a leg­isla­tive re­sponse to the is­sue of out­stand­ing pub­lic con­cern is over­due.

Yet the com­ing event of the cur­rent leg­is­la­ture ses­sion is more than newsy, be­cause for “the first time af­ter 13 years” the peo­ple’s congress would ex­er­cise “leg­isla­tive power”, as the lo­cal me­dia put it.

The 700-strong leg­is­la­ture, which con­venes ev­ery year, has not wielded full-ses­sion leg­isla­tive au­thor­ity for 13 years.

All lo­cal leg­is­la­tions of the city, big and small, had been ex­am­ined and ap­proved by the 70 or so mem­bers of its stand­ing com­mit­tee since the 2001 an­nual ses­sion, which passed a reg­u­la­tion on the mak­ing of lo­cal statutes.

The rea­son? Sched­ules of the full ses­sions are too tight to al­low dis­cus­sions on leg­isla­tive bills, which usu­ally turn out to be pro­longed pro­cesses.

Such an­nual ses­sions are ded­i­cated to work re­ports of the leg­isla­tive, ju­di­cial and ad­min­is­tra­tive arms of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment, as well as elec­tions. No law was bro­ken, though. And that’s why the prac­tice could con­tinue for years.

But the ab­sence of peo­ple’s del­e­gates in the dis­course and law­mak­ing on ma­jor lo­cal af­fairs is against the ideals and prin­ci­ples of our rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy. It com­pro­mises the elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ right to par­tic­i­pate in core leg­isla­tive pro­ce­dures.

That some ma­jor lo­cal de­crees have been found to be ill-con­ceived af­ter win­ning leg­isla­tive ap­proval was clear ev­i­dence of the lim­i­ta­tions of de­ci­sion­mak­ing be­hind closed doors.

Let­ting 600 more peo­ple take part would not just make the process more worth­while. It will also make rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy more cred­i­ble.

Bei­jing has de­cided to sub­ject the air pol­lu­tion bill to the full ses­sion of the peo­ple’s congress be­cause the topic is re­port­edly too sig­nif­i­cant to not be de­lib­er­ated in a broader con­text.

Since the city has re­port­edly de­cided to make it a stan­dard prac­tice for leg­is­la­tion by the full ses­sion, we are now look­ing to del­e­gates newly ad­mit­ted into the leg­isla­tive process to live up to peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tion.

And since all lo­cal leg­is­la­tures are to hold their an­nual ses­sions be­fore March, we hope Bei­jing is not alone in mak­ing true an es­sen­tial prom­ise of rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy.

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