SHANGHAI – When China’s top legislature publishes draft laws to solicit public opinions, Wu Xinhui jumps into action.
A lawyer by profession, Wu convenes a meeting with residents of Hongqiao Subdistrict in Shanghai to explain the legal provisions of the draft and log their opinions before submitting to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. She is one of the hundreds of so-called legislative coordinators tasked with collecting grassroots opinions, which legislators seek while approving new or revised laws.
The initiative is part of the 2014 program by the central government to include voices from the public when ratifying new local and national laws. Hongqiao Subdistrict, which was added to the initiative in 2015, is one of four grassroots communities in the country — others are in the central Hubei, eastern Jiangxi, and northwestern Gansu provinces — designated as an “opinion collection station” for draft legislations.
Hongqiao Subdistrict, home to over 80,000 residents, was selected for the program due to its diverse population, as well as its robust economic and judicial resources, according to one lawmaker. Though all Chinese nationals can submit their opinions for draft legislations, the handpicked communities have legal experts like Wu to help them make their voices stand out.
Just two months after its inclusion in the program, residents of Hongqiao Subdistrict were asked for their opinion on the draft of Anti-Domestic Violence Law. They suggested the elderly be granted protection by the law too, and were included alongside minors, people with disabilities, and pregnant women when the law went into effect in 2016.
“At first, the residents thought this was just a formality, and their opinions wouldn’t be heard at the national level, or that they would be adopted,” Wu told Sixth Tone. “But when they learned the proposal was adopted, they became more enthusiastic for the program.”
The Hongqiao Subdistrict’s opinion collection station also put forward 50 suggestions on the revised draft of the Minor Protection Law, of which nine were adopted. Ten of the more than 90 suggestions they submitted for the country’s first-ever Civil Code were also accepted — it included a provision that stipulates couples should disclose any serious illness to their partners before tying the knot.
By September, Hongqiao Subdistrict had participated in opinion collections for 57 national draft laws, providing over 1,000 pieces of feedback, according to local authorities. Of them, 92 have been accepted by lawmakers and included in national legislation.
Wu added that residents of the Hongqiao Subdistrict are starting to realize that their opinions are valued in legislative matters, and more people are participating in the program.
“This has well promoted democratic legislation and played an important role in publicizing the law,” Wu said.
(Header image: A view of the community office for residents of Hongqiao, Shanghai, Sept. 10, 2021. Fan Yiying/Sixth Tone)