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Local legislative outreach office in Shanghai puts whole-process people’s democracy in great practice

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By Zhang Yi, People’s Daily

Developing whole-process people’s democracy is one of the essential requirements of Chinese modernization. Shanghai, while building itself into a modern socialist metropolis, has integrated whole-process people’s democracy into its urban development, trying to set a great example for practicing whole-process people’s democracy.

Recently, a discussion on a draft revision to China’s Charity Law was hosted in a community cafeteria along the Hongqiao Road, Changning district of Shanghai, joined by a number of local residents. This cafeteria was designated as a meeting room for view seeking on legislation by the local legislative outreach office of Hongqiao sub-district.

The local legislative outreach office of Hongqiao sub-district was established in 2015 by the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, one of the earliest in the country. It enables citizens to take part in the country’s legislation just near their homes.

The office has solicited public opinions for a number of laws, including a draft amendment to the Individual Income Tax Law and a draft amendment to the Law on the Protection of Minors.

In particular, it heard 64 opinions from the local residents on the draft amendment to the Individual Income Tax Law and submitted 25 to its superior department. Three were adopted finally. With regard to the draft amendment to the Law on the Protection of Minors, the office solicited 67 public opinions and submitted 50 of them, including 9 that were adopted.

Zhu Guoping, who runs a community service studio in Changning district, has been working in Hongqiao sub-district for decades. She became an “information officer” of the local legislative outreach office when it was established, and joined opinion collection for many draft revisions to laws.

Zhu said the local legislative outreach office needs to turn legal terms into easy language, so that residents can make suggestions centering on the laws being discussed. Besides, it also needs to turn public opinions, which are mostly colloquial, into precise legal expressions.

The office is where the public and professionalism merge. Its first discussion was on a draft version of counter domestic violence law. At the beginning of the discussion, participating residents were confused by legal terms involved, such as “statutory agent” and “law-based.”

“They might not understand legal terms, but they have rich life experiences,” said Wu Xinhui, director of a law firm in Shanghai. She has joined three such discussions, during which her task was to “translate” legal terms into popular language. According to her, participating residents would always become talkative as soon as they found, through her paraphrasing, that the legal terms were actually about everyday affairs.

As the view seeking on legislation sees higher and higher public enthusiasm and draws wider and wider participation, the opinions received have become more targeted. Both the number and quality of opinions are on a rise, and the local residents are getting more sense of fulfillment and higher satisfaction of livelihood.

As of this January, the local legislative outreach office of Hongqiao sub-district had solicited public opinions on a total of 78 laws and submitted 1,926 opinions to its superior department. Among them, 163 were adopted.

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