Civil code lays foundation for ‘rule of law’

By Shan Renping Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/14 21:23:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

National lawmakers at the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress will start deliberating and then vote on the draft general provisions of civil law on Wednesday, which is a big step for China's legal construction.

The civil code, dubbed as "an encyclopedia on social life" regulating personal and property relations, has been welcomed by the Chinese public. But, there are also criticisms saying that it is "overhasty" and "not meeting matured requirements."

It is widely known that the civil code includes laws that affect the lives of all citizens. A citizen may not come into contact with criminal laws throughout his or her life but he or she must abide by the civil code at all times. Only when the country's civil code is perfected - as it governs our everyday activities - can a society based on the rule of law be realized.

It's been three decades since the last time China passed a general provision of civil law in 1986. Our society has undergone monumental changes and individuals have become more aware of their rights. Hence, it is urgent to streamline the civil code.

According to the legislative plan, China will start passing the new civil law in 2017 and it will be fully enacted in 2020, which, without a doubt, would be historically significant. The legislation, which is an accumulation of four decades of experience since China's reform and opening-up, lays a solid foundation for the further progress in the country's path toward achieving the rule of law.

No legislation is completely mature, nor any that is able to successfully regulate all social activities in the long term. Otherwise, there will be no need for amendments to the constitution and various laws.

But, there are many dissenting opinions regarding the civil law. While some argue that the implementation of it is too hasty and the civil law is not up to standard, others worry that society may not be mature enough to carry out the laws. The government's actions cannot please everybody.

However, different opinions must be respected. In the process of soliciting opinions for the draft general provisions of civil law, every citizen was given the chance to contribute their ideas in improving the draft.

Is China in need of a comprehensive civil code? The answer is definitely yes. Then, the government should commit itself to the compilation and implementation of the law. Any difficulties and problems during the process should be tackled head on and cannot become the pretext to postpone the amendment. 

The general provisions of the civil law attempt to resolve various concerns in current Chinese society like specifying the responsibilities within the relationship between parents and children, rights of fetuses, protection for good Samaritans and privacy rights, as well as rights and responsibilities in cyber space. The majority of Chinese citizens hope that the law will protect their civil rights.

Because of the increasing demand from its people, China has expanded its legislative capacity in the past decades. Since the reform and opening-up, judicial sectors have made a great deal of practical and theoretical accomplishments.

The law-based governance is not just empty talk. It requires all members of society to take actions based on its core values. Discussions on the content of the laws and promotion of it in various sectors of society are needed to improve China's civil code.

It's natural to have differing opinions in a pluralistic society like China, but the spread of false information should be prevented. Only constructive criticisms can push society forward.

The author is a commentator with the Chinese edition of the Global Times. Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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