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Beijing Considers Animal Welfare, Road Safety Laws

The issue of animal welfare is once again before Beijing's top legislative body.

The Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress reviewed a draft law to protect the rights of animals used for research on Wednesday as part of a session that also dealt with solid waste disposal and traffic safety.

"Organizations and personnel engaged in experiments that use animals as subjects should guarantee the welfare of the animals," the draft says. The draft encourages the use of substitutes for animals in scientific research in an effort to avoid unnecessary pain and harm to animals.

"Animals used as subjects for experiments should be treated in a proper way," the draft says.

The Standing Committee will vote on the revised draft when it meets again in December. If approved, it will replace a 1996 rule.

Liang Ping, vice director of the Education, Science, Culture, Health and Sports Committee, which submitted the revised draft, said that the revisions give more depth to the city's animal welfare regulations. The 1996 version prescribes only a love for animals.

"But that is not enough now. We need more detailed provisions on the issue of animal welfare," Liang said.

Animal welfare has become a barrier to joint Sino-foreign projects since China's entry into the World Trade Organization.

In early May, the Beijing Municipal Legal Affairs Office announced that it had drafted legislation on animal welfare. The need for and practicality of the law drew hot debate, but the draft -- much broader in scope than the current version -- was withdrawn from the Standing Committee's consideration on May 17.

Animal welfare was just one of the topics the Standing Committee tackled on Wednesday.

Zhang Yi, director of the Standing Committee's subcommittee for Urban Construction and Environmental Protection, called for more incinerating of solid waste, rather than merely burying it. According to Zhang, 90 percent of Beijing's solid waste goes into landfills.

Over 4.2 million tons of rubbish are produced in the capital city every year.

"Burying rubbish uses a lot of land and has a negative impact on the environment," Zhang said.

Beijing Municipal Administration Commission Director Chen Wenzhan told local legislators that 93 percent of urban rubbish and 30 percent of rubbish in rural areas will be treated without damaging the environment this year.

The capital city has a total of 17 facilities to deal with solid waste.

The committee also discussed implementation of the new Road Traffic Safety Law.

The National People's Congress passed the national law in October 2003 and it went into effect on May 1. It is now up to local jurisdictions to determine how to implement it.

The city government opened the subject up for feedback from the public in August, and held a public hearing last month. The Standing Committee began debating the draft implementation regulation Wednesday.

The original draft placed all liability for accidents on the drivers in cases of collisions involving a pedestrian or non-motorized vehicle.

The revised draft, which will be voted on tomorrow, says that drivers should only be solely responsible when they do not take steps to protect the scene of the crash, fail to report the incident or when there is no evidence to prove that the pedestrian or the non-motorized vehicle operators have violated the law and the driver has taken steps to deal with the collision.

(China Daily October 21, 2004)

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