Proposed civil code crucial for protection of people's rights in their quest for better life

Wang Yong
Dubbed "the basic law of a market economy" and "an encyclopedia of social life," the civil code, once being implemented, will better protect people's rights, experts said.
Wang Yong

Can you rent an apartment and then sublet it to someone else? Can you retract your emotionally driven divorce application if you regret your decision later? Who will be responsible for the harms done by objects fallen from high above?

These are but a few issues highlighted in a high-profile draft civil code being deliberated in the ongoing national legislative and consultative conferences.

The 13th National People’s Congress is to convene its third plenary session today, while the 13th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference began its third plenary session yesterday.

Dubbed “the basic law of a market economy” and “an encyclopedia of social life,” the civil code, once being implemented, will better protect people’s rights, experts said.

“It’s the first law with the name of a code in new China,” said Wang Liming, executive vice president of the Renmin University of China and an expert of civil law, in an interview published by Xinhua news agency yesterday. “It codifies all civil laws made over the past 40 years of reform and opening-up.”

The Beijing Daily yesterday quoted Wang as saying that the civil code being deliberated will provide a powerful legal framework for the people in their quest for a better life.

Right of habitation

“In essence, the civil code concerns protection of rights,” Wang told the Beijing Daily. “By confirming and protecting private rights, the code draws a boundary and standard for the use of public power as well.”

Compared with previous civil laws and regulations, the draft civil code has added a right of habitation. It enables one to occupy and use someone else’s residential apartment or house. In most cases, this right of habitation cannot be transferred.

But with a special agreement between the owner and the user, the latter can sublet the apartment or house in question to yet a third party, explained Wang Yi, dean of the School of Law at the Renmin University of China. In other words, you may profit from renting out a rented residential apartment or house, provided you have a valid agreement with the owner.

With this new right of habitation, not all people will feel so urgent to buy an apartment here and now. This way, there may be less pressure for housing prices to spiral up across the board.

As for objects fallen from high above, the draft civil code places more responsibility on property management teams, requiring them to take necessary measures to prevent accidents caused by fallen objects.

In their failure to take necessary preventive measures, property management might be held accountable for torts liabilities.

Hazards of fallen objects happen now and then, and it has often been difficult to identify the perpetrator(s). For example, a 6-month-old baby in the arms of her mother was hit by some shampoo bottles fallen from a high-rise building in a residential area in Shenzhen, southern Guangdong Province, on May 11. The baby suffered bone fractures and went into a coma. The baby has since recovered, though the perpetrators have not yet been identified.

Though property management cannot prevent all such hazards from happening, more safety measures such as roofed corridors on the ground and installation of as many surveillance cameras as possible would help minimize such hazards or track down the perpetrators.

Grace period for divorcees

In addition to clarifying the right of habitation and the liability for fallen objects, the draft civil code has set a 30-day grace period to allow couples to reconsider their divorce applications.

To be specific, any side of a couple can regret and retract a divorce application from a marriage registration institution within 30 days of its receiving the application.

This certainly will save some marriages because not a few divorces have been conceived of in a haste.

The Beijing News reported on May 20 that nearly 9.5 million couples were married and nearly 4.2 million couples were divorced last year.

Yes, there are divorces driven by irrational emotions, but how about couples who really want to divorce, especially those suffering from domestic violence? Will the 30-day cushion period be an unnecessary burden? As the Beijing News noted, citing expert opinions, it may be subject to judicial interpretations in a case-by-case manner.

The draft civil code was open for public comments from last December to January this year. In about one month, 13,718 people had submitted 114,574 pieces of advice, Xinhua said in a report on May 20, citing Yue Zhongming, spokesman for the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee.

The Paper, a news portal, commented yesterday that the draft civil code had solicited solid public opinions so that it could reflect and protect the widest possible interests of the people.

The 84-chapter, 1,260-article draft touches upon such issues as property rights, contracts, personality rights, marriage and family, inheritance and torts liability, Xinhua reported.

Special Reports
Top