Buildings frequented by large numbers of people, such as hospitals and schools, must meet earthquake-resistance standards higher than other buildings in the same areas, according to legislation passed over the weekend.
Existing buildings from this category must be renovated to meet the standards and have earthquake response plans approved by local governments, the Earthquake Precaution and Disaster Relief Law amendment passed by the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee said.
The amendment, to take effect on May 1, 2009, also designates punishments for officials who cover up or delay reporting quake damage.
The revisions are based on lessons learned from the 8.0-magnitude May 12 Sichuan earthquake that left nearly 88,000 people dead or missing, Huang Jianchu, a member of the NPC Standing Committee's legislative affairs commission, said.
The quake affected nearly 14,000 schools.
"The Sichuan quake revealed new problems in quake precaution and relief. The amendment has made adjustments accordingly," he said.
Patent Law amended
An amendment to the Patent Law permitting investors to seek patents abroad before obtaining them domestically also passed on Saturday.
The amendment, which takes effect on Oct 1, 2009, opens the door for more overseas filings by Chinese companies.
Currently, those who develop inventions in China must apply for domestic patents before applying overseas.
However, the amendment stipulates that before applying abroad, inventors must first submit their innovations for government inspection to determine whether they contain "national secrets".
Innovations that have not undergone security assessments will not be granted Chinese patents, and those who leak "national secrets" by failing to apply for assessment will be punished according to law, the amendment says.
There has been a recent boom in patents in China, and the country is expected to surpass Japan, the current leader among patent holders, by 2012, a report released this month by Thomson Reuters Scientific, one of the research arms of Thomson Reuters, said.
Social security draft law
In addition, the NPC Standing Committee also posted the full text of the social security law draft on its website yesterday, saying "all suggestions from the public are welcome".
The draft law calls for unifying pension funds across the country so individuals' accounts can be transferred and renewed anywhere - a policy change important to the country's 200 million migrant workers.
People are encouraged to mail their suggestions to the standing committees of local people's congresses or directly to the NPC Standing Committee before Feb 15.
They can also visit www.npc.gov.cn to post messages, a notice from the top legislature said.
By yesterday evening, 596 people had left 4,131 suggestions on the draft law, according to the record shown on the NPC Standing Committee's website.
(China Daily December 29, 2008)