II. Improving the Legal and
Systems Step by Step
China pays great attention to environmental legislative work and has now established an environmental statutory framework that takes the Constitution of the People's Republic of China as the foundation and the Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China as the main body.
The Constitution of the People's Republic of China stipulates, ``The state protects and improves the living environment and the ecological environment, and prevents and remedies pollution and other public hazards,'' and ``The state ensures the rational use of natural resources and protects rare animals and plants. The appropriation or damage of natural resources by any organization or individual by whatever means is prohib"iited.''
The Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China is the cardinal law for environmental protection in China. The law has established the basic principle for coordinated development between economic construction, social progress and environmental protection, and defined the rights and duties of governments at all levels, all units and individuals as regards environmental protection.
China has enacted and promulgated many special laws on environmental protection as well as laws on natural resources related to environmental protection. They include the Law on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, Law on the Prevention and Control of Air Pollution, Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Wastes, Marine Environment Protection Law, Forestry Law, Grassland Law, Fisheries Law, Mineral Resources Law, Land Administration Law, Water Resources Law, Law on the Protection of Wild Animals, Law on Water and Soil Conservation, and Agriculture Law.
The Chinese government has also enacted more than 30 administrative decrees regarding environmental protection, including the Regulations for the Prevention and Control of Noise Pollution, Regulations on Nature Reserves, Regulations on the Prevention of and Protection Against Radiation from Radio Isotopes and Radioactive Device, Regulations on the Safe Administration of Chemicals and Other Dangerous Materials, Provisional Regulations on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution in the Huaihe River Drainage Area, Regulations Governing Environmental Protection Administration in Offshore Oil Exploration and Development, Regulations on the Control of Marine Wastes Dumping, Regulations for the Implementation of the Protection of Terrestrial Wildlife, Pro"ivisional Regulations on the Administration of National Parks, Regulations on the Protection of Basic Farmland, and Regulations on Urban Afforestation. In addition, departments concerned have also issued a number of administrative rules and decrees on environmental protection.
To implement the state's environmental protection laws and regulations, people's congresses and people's governments at local levels, proceeding from specific conditions in their own areas, have enacted and promulgated more than 600 local laws on environmental protection.
Environmental standards are an important component of China's environmental statutory framework. They include environmental quality standards, pollutant discharge or emission standards, basic environmental criteria, criteria for samples, and criteria for methodology. The environmental quality standards and pollutant discharge or emission standards are divided into state standards and local standards. By the end of 1995, China had promulgated state environmental standards on 364 items. As stipulated in Chinese law, the environmental quality standards and pollutant discharge standards are compulsory standards, and those who violate these compulsory environmental standards must bear the corresponding legal responsibility.
In the process of establishing and improving the environmental statutory framework, China attaches equal importance to environmental law enforcement and environmental legislation. For four years in a row, China has conducted nationwide checks on the enforcement of environmental legislation to seriously deal with acts of polluting and damaging the environment and severely punish environmental law violations. China pays great attention to supervision exercised by the people and media over law-breaking activities regarding the environment -- it has opened channels for the masses of people to report on environmental problems and adopted measures for the media to expose environmental law-breaking activities.
But it should be pointed out that China's environmental legislative work needs to be further improved. For instance, some areas still remain uncovered, some contents are yet to be amended or revised and there are still the phenomena of not fully observing or enforcing laws. Therefore, to make continuous efforts to strengthen environmental legislative work remains an important strategic task.
China attaches equal importance to the establishment of an environmental administrative system. It has established a system in which the National People's Congress enacts the laws, governments at different levels take responsibility for their enforcement, the administrative departments in charge of environmental protection exercise overall supervision and administration and the various departments concerned exercise supervision and administration according to the stipulations of the law.
The National People's Congress has established an Environment and Resources Protection Committee, whose work it is to organize the formulation and examination of drafted laws related to environmental and resources protection and prepare the necessary reports, exercise supervision over the enforcement of laws governing environmental and resources protection, put forward motions related to the issue of environmental and resources protection, and conduct exchanges with parliaments in other countries in the field of environmental and resources protection. The people's congresses of some provinces and cities have also established corresponding environmental and resources protection organizations.
The Environmental Protection Committee under the State Council is made up of leaders of various related ministries under the State Council. It is the State Council's consultancy and coordination agency for environmental protection work. Its major tasks are studying and examining the principles, policies and measures relating to coordinative development of the country's economy and environmental protection, giving guidance to and coordinating efforts in tackling major environmental problems, exercising supervision over and conducting checks on the implementation of the environmental protection laws and regulations by various localities and departments, and promoting the development of environmental protection undertakings throughout the country. The people's governments at the provincial, city and county levels have also established corresponding environmental protection committees.
The National Environmental Protection Agency is the competent environmental protection administration agency under the State Council, whose task it is to exercise overall supervision and administration over the country's environ"imen tal protection work. The people's governments at the provincial, city and county levels have also successively established environmental protection administration departments to carry out overall supervision and administration of the environ"imen tal protection work in their localities. At present, there are nationwide more than 2,500 environmental protection administration departments above the county level with a total staff of 88,000 engaged in environmental administration, monitoring, inspection and control, statistics collection, scientific research, pub"ilicity and education.
Environmental protection organizations have also been established in comprehensive administration departments, resources administration departments and industrial departments under governments at various levels to take charge of related environmental and resources protection work. Most of China's large and medium-sized enterprises have also set up environmental protection organizations responsible for their own anti-pollution work and the promotion of cleaner production. At present, the total number of various types of environmental protection workers employed by the various departments and enterprises exceeds 200,000.