Procuratorial Daily Commentator Discusses Significance of NPC Delegate's Statement on Citizen Constitutional Claims

May 8, 2006

Recently, Li Fei, Vice Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, confirmed in a public statement that citizens may petition for legislative review of laws and regulations that they believe conflict with the PRC Constitution (for details, click here). In a commentary published a week later, Li Shuming notes that the NPC delegate’s statement is nothing new and that citizens have had the right to petition for the constitutional review of laws and regulations since the adoption of the Legislation Law. However, he argues that constitutional review has been a sensitive issue in China’s democratization process and that the NPC statement, especially from a member of the Legal Affairs Committee, is a significant reaffirmation of the petition right.

Li then discusses the development of China’s constitutional review process and its importance for the protection of human rights and rule of law in China. Historically, he says, the PRC Constitution has not been fully respected. He argues that the NPC Standing Committee’s decision to establish an office to review laws and regulations for consistency with the Constitution is an overdue but positive step and will help to establish the authority of the Constitution. Li also appears to address, albeit obliquely, continued shortcomings in China’s constitutional review process (such as the inability of citizens to compel review and the inability of citizens to request review in individual cases involving constitutional violations). He suggests that constitutional review must correct both unconstitutional laws and regulations and unconstitutional "behavior." While acknowledging that gaps remain in China’s constitutional review procedure and it is not yet the "patron" of the people’s interests, he concludes that China has taken an important step in the right direction and that the "springtime" of constitutional review in China will come rapidly.