The worthy and the weird

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-3-17 20:28:00


National People's Congress deputies line up for the vote to decide on China's new premier Friday in Beijing. <a href=Li Keqiang was elected as premier. Photo: CFP" src="">
National People's Congress deputies line up for the vote to decide on China's new premier Friday in Beijing. Li Keqiang was elected as premier. Photo: CFP

Editor's Note:

The two political sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) have come to an end. As in past sessions, legislators and political advisors put forward motions or proposals that reflected issues of public concerns, while other deputies shared their two cents on shocking elements that had made headlines. Our reporters as well as Chinese and foreign editors voted on the seven best and five most ridiculous proposals tabled in a bid to give our readers an idea of the hope and confusion of China's political scene.

1. Eliminate reeducation through labor

Di Yingqi, a CPPCC member and dean of the Law School at Henan University of Economics and Law, proposed eliminating the reeducation through labor system as he believes it has led to widespread abuses of power and stripped petitioners of their right to appeal.

Di is not the only one supporting this measure.

Meng Jianzhu, secretary of the Committee of Political and Legal Affairs under the CPC Central Committee, said at a work meeting that a proposal to eliminate the system by the end of 2013 had already been sent to the NPC Standing Committee.

This proposal has found broad public support after the case of Tang Hui, who was sentenced to 18 months in a labor camp by the Yongzhou police in Hunan in 2012 after petitioning over the case of her 11-year-old daughter who was kidnapped and forced into prostitution.

2. High standards for pollution control

Li Shufu, a CPPCC member and CEO of Volvo, proposed to establish legislation and new standards to control air pollution.

"Pollution control cannot be done by a single city or government, it needs an all-round system and laws," Li said.

The terrible smog in Beijing and other northern areas cast a vast pall over the annual two sessions. Top legislators and political advisors were bombarded by media questions about the weather.

This matter concerns everyone yet little action is being taken to reduce the levels of PM2.5 particles.

Across northern China, air purifying devices are usually sold out and the public left hoping for strong wind to chase away the smog. But signs of promising changes have appeared.

Both the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Beijing municipal government have picked up the call for action, seeking to pass swift regulation.

3. Give NPC power to tax

This proposal by Shandong deputy and playwright Zhao Dongling has collected 15 signatures from fellow deputies and seeks to give tax legislation powers back to the NPC.

The State Council on March 1 issued a new policy imposing a 20 percent tax on profits from secondhand home sales. This is the latest measure aiming to cool the overheated real estate market. But since the policy was announced, the number of daily secondhand home transactions in Beijing has soared by nearly 28 percent, according to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.

"The government can't simply put 20 percent taxes on the public. This is just one particular example which shows that returning tax powers to the NPC will solve this problem," Zhao said.

But as the State Council has already set a timeframe, it may take five more years of political action to balance a cooling property market and protect the public demand for affordable housing.

4. Open college entrance exams to non-locals

Zhu Liangyu, 41-year-old security guard and a NPC deputy, has a strong track record of catching thieves in Beijing. However, his status as a migrant means his son cannot sit the gaokao (university entrance exam) here as he does not have a Beijing hukou.

China sees the world's biggest migration between cities and a report from the 18th Party Congress urged for fairer opportunities to be given to migrant workers and their families due to their contributions to the cities.

Discussion over opening the gaokao to non-locals was on the two sessions agenda in 2011, before a reform plan was approved by the State Council in 2012.

However, Beijing and Shanghai who have the best education resources are still very tentative in contemplating such changes.

The Ministry of Education has seen several protests from non-local parents demanding fairer opportunity for their kids.

But local parents are resisting as they don't want to see the benefits their own children get diluted. The key task will be how the government can balance these demands as well as calls for a level playing field in education.

5. Ease up on movie censorship

Movie director and CPPCC member Feng Xiaogang raised the suggestion of reforming China's movie censorship. Feng expressed interest in a movie about the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), which has been largely off-limits in Chinese film. He suggested China's film censorship be based on a strategic vision to give more room to themes that reflect history, like the Cultural Revolution.

Feng believed that young Chinese, many of which don't know much about the Cultural Revolution, should be given the opportunity to learn about it.

The past few years have witnessed many controversies surrounding China's movie censorship and many directors and scholars have slammed it as being the biggest obstacle to the Chinese film industry. Cuts to major movies have also angered audiences.

6. Switch to a two-child policy

Discussions on China's one-child policy were heated during the two sessions. Yu Jinyao, a CPPCC member and research fellow from the Academy of Social Sciences, called for the one-child policy to be replaced by a two-children policy within five years.

Yu said China has realized the goal of controlling population growth thanks to the implementation of the one-child policy in the past 30 years.

Yu predicted China will see its population peak around 2033 at 1.5 billion. He believed China should stick to its family planning policy in the long run and strive to maintain a low fertility rate but that other options are possible. A two-children policy could be a favorable choice as it would not only help control population growth but also deal with an aging society.

Yu suggested a five-year transition. In the first step, couples in cities with relatively small populations and low fertility rates could be allowed to have a second child before the program was rolled out nationwide.

7. Low-income housing for migrant workers

The sex life of migrant workers has come in for debate through proposals by Liu Li, a NPC deputy. Liu pointed out that in her own experience as a migrant worker in Xiamen, Fujian Province, many migrant workers have "temporary husbands or wives" to relieve sexual frustration after long period away from spouses.

Liu proposed that migrant workers should be allowed to apply for low-income housing in cities to solve the problem.

Some hold that this is a sensitive issue that challenges traditional family patterns and is morally wrong, but many counter that this is a social problem, not one of morality. Migrant workers are unable to enjoy the same rights and benefits as urban residents but they deserve a fair environment to settle down and work.

Five most shocking proposals

1. Lawyers should pay part of their commission to judges.

Yuan Zhimin, the chairman of Guangzhou Industry and Commerce Federations and an NPC deputy, said the low wages of judges had resulted in a decline of efficiency, productivity and to a risk of corruption, adding that many lawyers earned more than judges. This proposal might seem fair but lawyers soon chimed in saying they didn't earn much more than taxi drivers. Chongqing Mayor Huang Qifan also recently suggested judges could be inspired by Hollywood movies when facing difficult decisions in court.

2. Who wants more poor people anyway?

Guo Xinzhi, Vice Chairman of the Shanxi Disabled Persons' Federation and NPC deputy, managed to make the straight-faced declaration that the family planning policy should be changed so that people living in less developed areas have less children.

So, basically, Guo Xinzhi is saying that poor people should give the rich their birth control quotas as uneducated children would be a burden to China. 

3. Jail terms for corruption involving 100,000 yuan should be reduced from 10 years to just one year. 

Zhu Lieyu, a lawyer and NPC deputy from Guangdong Province, proposed softening the punishment for officials convicted of corruption.

In today's China, that is a brave man. Or a madman. His argument is that the annual income for farmers had increased from 2,090 yuan in 1997 to 6,977 yuan in 2011. Apparently, for Zhu, this means that stealing 100,000 yuan today is only equivalent to stealing 10,000 yuan before, hence the reduction in jail terms.

By Zhu's count, an official needs to steal 1 million yuan in order to land himself in jail for 10 years. Perhaps he's right, who cares about small-time crooks who don't have the guts to steal tens or even hundreds of millions of yuan?

4. Taking the train should be free on national holidays.

Lawyer Zhu Lieyu suggested that rail travel be made free during the major holidays for those who can't afford.

It's uncertain when Zhu last took the train during the Spring Festival rush. If his policy is implemented, we invite him to see the over-crowding it would cause from his comfortable seat on the train roof.

5. Mo Yan should have worn a traditional Chinese costume when receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Song Xinfang, NPC deputy from Shandong Province, repeatedly suggested that China should establish a traditional costume as a formal national dress.

There has been debate about what Mo should have worn when he accepted his Nobel Prize. Eventually, he plumped for a normal formal tail coat.   In a country where the concept of wearing something foreign is considered to be modern, Mo's dress sense code somehow upset many people who think he is not Chinese enough. Yes, he just won a Nobel Prize, what a disgrace to China.

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