Expats gain insights into working of People's Congress

Chen Huizhi
Some 40 expatriates from Huacao Town in Minhang District visited the meeting hall of the standing committee of the Shanghai People's Congress on Friday.
Chen Huizhi

Some 40 expatriates from Huacao Town in Minhang District visited the meeting hall of the standing committee of the Shanghai People’s Congress on Friday.

For the first time this year, the city’s legislature opened its doors to foreign residents working for international companies and international schools.

The meeting hall is where laws and decisions are made by the city’s legislators, and in recent years, more and more foreigners have been invited to visit to gain an insight into how a Chinese legislature works. 

Gao Deyi, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the congress, briefed the visitors on how the people’s congress functions.

Besides lawmaking, members of the congress are also involved in the examination of law enforcement, supervision and investigation,  inquiries to the government, and presentation of reports.

There are currently 57 members on the standing committee of the Shanghai People’s Congress, and more than 861 elected members of the city’s legislature. Suggestions and proposals are solicited from them all year round.

The legislature also makes key decision on important issues, such as its February decision to unite all residents in fighting the COVID-19 epidemic. Legislators gave authorizations to various government bodies to take appropriate measures, Gao said.

The lawmaking process in China, he said, is all-inclusive, with studies and reports made by committees of the legislature, consultation with the government on draft laws and opinions solicited from the public. Laws are voted on after more than one reading and revision, with drafts passing legal scrutiny.

“The Chinese lawmaking system might be different from other countries, but our legislators are doing a similar job,” Gao said in his address. “Some foreign media call Chinese people’s congresses a ‘rubber stamp,’ which is not only untrue, but rather, is a prejudice.”

Simon Stewart, director of admissions and marketing of the British International School Shanghai, Puxi, said it’s an incredible honor to be able to be right in the center where decisions are made for the people of Shanghai.

He said he was impressed by the way the legislature is organized, and that an open dialogue can be had on how the needs of the residents can be best presented as well as how to best promote the economy.

“It’s a great opportunity for expats to come and really understand deeply how government works in Shanghai, and how it supports the growth of the city,” he said.

Christopher Short, the international principal of Nord Anglia Chinese International School, said he felt excited to take part in the event early on in his life in Shanghai as he has been here for only a few weeks.

“It’s really interesting to find out how the congress here works and the various roles the legislators have,” he said. “In terms of legislation, day-to-day running, electing people to sit in positions within the body and the way it’s structured, the congress here is very similar to the parliament in Britain.”

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