China will stick to and perfect the people's congress system, which is an important component of the country's political reform, said Zhou Chengkui, deputy secretary-general of the Standing Committee of the Ninth National People's Congress (NPC).
While some have said, reform of the political system still lags far behind economic reform, despite the great achievements in economic restructuring since 1979, Zhou denies these claims.
"This is not true. Actually, China initiated political reform in 1979 and has made great progress in such reform over the past two decades," said Zhou in an interview with China Daily.
Political reform will continue, he said, with the focus on how to perfect the people's congress system.
"We will stick with a number of basic political principles and systems while moving ahead with these reforms," said Zhou.
He quoted Jiang Zemin, general-secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, as saying that China will continue to regard the NPC as the highest State organ of power, insist on the advantages of socialism and stick with the single-chamber NPC system.
"We will not adopt the tripartite political system, the multiparty system, or the two-chamber system," said Zhou. "We will stick to the people's congress system."
The NPC and its Standing Committee is the highest organ of State power through which the nation's people exercise their power.
Compared with Western parliaments, which have been developing for over 300 years, China's NPC system is still very young, with less than 50 years' history, Zhou said.
Late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said in 1992 that China needed 30 years to perfect its various systems.
"The organizational and working system of the NPC should be continuously improved," said Zhou.
For example, the rules of debate at the NPC are expected to be modified with the development of the people's congress system, he said.
"A record of China's political reform over the past 20 years can be easily traced in the development process of the people's congress system," said Zhou.
The NPC revised Electoral Law in 1979, expanding the direct election of deputies to the people's congress from the township level to the county level and replaced non-competitive elections with competitive ones.
These reforms give the electorate more rights in electing deputies for the people's congress at various levels.
In 1982, the NPC amended the Constitution and gave the NPC Standing Committee legislative powers. Before that, only the NPC had legislative powers.
Since 1979, the NPC and its Standing Committee have drafted 411 laws, legal interpretations and decisions on issues of law, most of which are drafted by the Standing Committee.
The amendments to the Constitution also allow the people's congress above the county level to set up standing committees, which are empowered to draft local regulations.
Over 9,000 local rules and regulations have been drafted since 1979, most of which were also drafted by the standing committee of local people's congresses.
These laws and regulations have greatly pushed China's democratic and legal development process forward, said Zhou.
The Law on the Organization of Villagers' Committee and the Law on the Organization of Urban Neighborhood Committees empowered people to make decisions on village and neighborhood affairs, he added.
Peng Zhen, former chairman of the Standing Committee of the Sixth NPC, praised the villagers' committee as "a school of democracy in rural areas."
The implementation of the law has played an important role in expanding grassroots democracy, Zhou added.
(China Daily March 14, 2002)