China Focus: China adopts milestone Civil Code
China’s top legislature Thursday voted to adopt the country’s long-expected Civil Code, a milestone legislation that will better protect people’s rights and offer strong legal support for the country’s development.
The Civil Code passed at the third session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
The compilation of the Civil Code is an important component of the plans of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core for developing the rule of law, Wang Chen, vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, told the session.
In addition to general and supplementary provisions, the Civil Code, the world’s latest modern-day civil law, includes six parts on real rights, contracts, personality rights, marriage and family, inheritance, and tort liabilities.
The personal rights, property rights and other lawful rights and interests of the parties to civil legal relations shall be protected by law and shall not be infringed upon by any organization or individual, reads the Civil Code in its opening chapter.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese have long yearned for a civil code of their own, said Wang.
China’s earlier four attempts to draft a civil code since the 1950s did not succeed due to various reasons.
The legislative process started in June 2016 after the decision to draft the Civil Code was announced at a plenary session of the CPC Central Committee in October 2014. The General Provisions of the Civil Law was adopted in 2017. Beginning August 2018, the six individual draft parts were reviewed in different NPC Standing Committee sessions. In December 2019, a complete draft civil code was unveiled.
“Looking back in history, you’ll find that a civil code was usually born at a time of social stability and economic prosperity, and a civil code always ushered in a time of rapid economic and social development,” said Professor Yu Fei of China University of Political Science and Law. “We also have such expectations from China’s Civil Code.”
PROTECTING PEOPLE’S DIGNITY
Dubbed an “encyclopedia on social life,” the Civil Code will protect Chinese citizens’ rights from cradle to grave, experts say. According to the code, even unborn children have the rights to inheritance and gifts.
A major innovation of China’s Civil Code, jurists say, is embodied in the part on personality rights. While some countries have personality rights legal provisions, few have a specific law book in civil code dedicated to protecting personality rights.
The part on personality rights includes provisions on a civil subject’s rights to life, body, health, name, portrait, reputation and privacy, among others.
The part features stipulations on regulating studies related to human genes or embryos, strengthening privacy protection, banning sexual harassment, and other prominent issues of public concern.
The personality rights book shows that China has reached new heights in protecting people’s dignity, said Chen Jingying, a national lawmaker and vice president of East China University of Political Science and Law.
ADAPTING TO NEW REALITIES
While preparing the draft, the legislature sought public opinions on 10 occasions, receiving over 1 million online comments and suggestions.
Lawmakers say drafting the code is not about formulating a new civil law but rather systematically incorporating existing civil laws and regulations, modifying and improving them to adapt to new situations while maintaining their consistency.
Data and online virtual assets are also legally protected, according to the Civil Code.
It has clearly defined people’s privacy. Protected information has been expanded to include email addresses and location data.
The Civil Code has also fine-tuned several provisions to better protect people’s rights in case of emergencies such as the COVID-19 epidemic.
For example, if the guardian of a child is unable to perform his or her duties due to emergencies like being put under medical isolation, primary-level Party committees or civil affairs authorities must take over the guardianship, according to the code.
The Civil Code is a milestone in developing the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics, and will boost the modernization of China’s system and capacity for governance, said Wang Yi, dean of the law school at Renmin University of China. Enditem