China's 1982 Constitution will be amended for the fourth time when the country's top legislature holds its annual meeting.
The Constitution is the fundamental law of the State with supreme legal authority.
People of all nationalities, all State organs, the armed forces, all political parties and public organizations and all enterprises and undertakings in the country must take the Constitution as the basic norm of conduct. They have the duty to uphold the dignity of the Constitution and ensure its implementation.
No law or administrative or local rule or regulations can contravene the Constitution.
All acts in violation of the Constitution and the law must be investigated. No organization or individual is above the Constitution and the law.
The National People's Congress (NPC) and its permanent body -- the NPC Standing Committee -- supervise the enforcement of the Constitution.
The Constitution's status is also reflected by the peculiar procedures tied to the process of amending it. Only the NPC, the country's top legislature, is empowered to amend the Constitution.
The NPC Standing Committee or more than one-fifth of the deputies to the NPC have the rights to propose amendments to the Constitution.
The amendment will not be adopted without approval from a majority of more than two-thirds of all the deputies to the Congress.
Other statutes and resolutions are adopted by a simple majority vote of the deputies to the NPC.
The Standing Committee of the 10th NPC initiated the amendment process by passing a draft of the amendment in December. The draft will be submitted to the second plenary session of the 10th NPC next week. In fact, the current Constitution is the fourth Constitution in the history of the People's Republic of China since it was founded on October 1, 1949.
Two days before the founding of the New China, the first plenary session of the First Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference adopted the Common Programme of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. It served as a temporary constitution for the country against a special historical background.
In September, 1954, right after the people's congress system was established through general elections, the first plenary session of the First NPC adopted the country's first official Constitution.
It fixed the people's democracy and the socialist principle, the Party's general political lines in the country's transitional period, basic social system and State system as well as the basic rights and obligations of citizens.
However, effective implementation of the 1954 Constitution only lasted three years. It virtually collapsed when the Communist Party of China launched the campaign against bourgeois Rightists in 1957.
The Fourth NPC adopted the country's second Constitution in 1975, when the Cultural Revolution entered into the ninth year. The 1975 Constitution was poorly drafted because the devastating Cultural Revolution had drawn the whole nation into political disorder, social disturbance and economic paralysis.
The third Constitution was adopted in 1978, shortly after the end of the Cultural Revolution and the country started to bring order out of extreme chaos.
The 1978 Constitution could hardly play in tune with the country's progress although it was amended in 1979 and 1980 respectively.
Therefore, the central committee of Communist Party of China proposed to the presidium of the third plenary session of the Fifth NPC to make drastic revisions.
It took a special committee on Constitution amendment two years and three months to draft a new Constitution that fit into China's real situation.
The draft also went through a four-month-long civil debate started in April, 1982. The committee revised roughly 100 items in the draft on the basis of the national debate, which involved nearly 80 per cent of Chinese citizens.
The 1982 Constitution, China's current Constitution, was enacted in December 1982 during the fifth plenary session of the 5th NPC.
Prior to the current Constitution amending process, China's 1982 Constitution was amended in 1988, 1993 and 1999 respectively, marking major economic and social progress.
Previous amendments covered 17 articles of the Constitution.
The 1988 amendment affirmed the legal status of the private sector, stating it complements the socialist economy.
The 1993 amendment declared China will practice a market economy instead of a planned economy.
The 1999 amendment declared China will practice the rule of law and also upgraded the private sector from "complement of the socialist economy" to "an important component" of the country's market economy.
This amendment is widely regarded as milestone in private sector development.
Analysts said the fourth Constitution amendment will surmount previous three amendments in both quantity and spectrum.
The draft amendment to the Constitution is expected to inject stronger protection of private property rights, clarify that the country respects and safeguards human rights, and strengthen social security among other things.
More important, Professor Hu Jinguang of Renmin University of China, said this amendment is being conducted amid increased constitutionalism awareness among the public.
(China Daily March 3, 2004)