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Expatriates learn about China's legislative process

By Yan Dongjie| China Daily| Updated: April 25, 2023 L M S


Darina Muradian from Russia, her husband Sarkis Muradian and their daughter participate in an activity after the meeting. [Photo/China Daily]

A group of expats participated in a simulated meeting of the Huzhou people's congress standing committee in Zhejiang province on Thursday, voting for the passage of two local draft laws to learn how people's suggestions are heard and adopted.

"I think it's a good introduction to the way that the political system works in China," said Brian Keith Kirkpatrick, from the United States, who has taught in China since 2018 and currently lectures at Huzhou University.

Kirkpatrick voted "yes" for the new policies introduced at the meeting: "Huzhou's Regulations on the Construction of a Beautiful Countryside (Draft)" and "Decision of the Standing Committee of the Huzhou People's Congress on Promoting and Guaranteeing High-quality Development and the Construction of a Green Pilot Program on Common Prosperity Demonstration Zone (Draft)".

"I'm familiar with some of the details of these projects in the city, and I think they would be good for the city's local development and economy," he said.

Kirkpatrick was among 15 expatriates from 11 countries, including Switzerland, Canada, the US, Russia and South Africa, who participated in the activity organized by Huzhou people's congress.

It was the third year that Huzhou held this simulated meeting to introduce China's legislative system to the world so that foreigners can better understand how it works.

Like many cities in China, Huzhou has introduced policies and projects to welcome experts from overseas in recent years. Some 13,000 foreigners live and work in Huzhou, almost double the number 10 years ago.

Before voting, Sun Xianlong, Party secretary and director of the Huzhou people's congress standing committee, introduced the details of the meeting and gave the expats a preliminary understanding of the basic functions of the legislative system and the role it plays in society.

"Welcome to the Huzhou people's congress. I'm very glad to have you here," Sun said to the foreign guests, adding that some foreigners have repeatedly taken part in the simulated meeting of the Huzhou people's congress standing committee in the past three years where they have learned a lot.

After a draft is proposed, it is discussed by groups of deputies, or legislators, in the standing committee of the local people's congress, and later put to a vote at a plenary session.

A draft that is approved by more than half the total number of deputies can be passed, while drafts for local laws will be submitted to the standing committee of the provincial people's congress for deliberation before being formally adopted.

The National People's Congress and its Standing Committee are the highest organ of State power in China. The standing committees of local people's congresses at or above the county level meet at least once every two months.

The "beautiful countryside "draft was passed during the 16th meeting of the standing committee of the eighth Huzhou people's congress in December 2018. The regulation aims to build an ecological rural environment, improve the quality of life of farmers, promote sustainable rural development and drive comprehensive vitalization of the countryside.

The decision on promoting high-quality development and the construction of a demonstration zone of common prosperity was passed at the 37th meeting of the standing committee of the eighth Huzhou people's congress in October 2021.

It outlines how Huzhou will take care of the environment and ecology while ensuring high-quality development, promoting urban and rural integration and coordinated development between regions, and basically achieving common prosperity by 2035.

"I think that the congress is taking care of the people of China, and the deputies are interested in improving lives. So I think they are doing good work," said participant Darina Muradian from Russia.

She and her husband, Sarkis Muradian, have lived in China for six years. The couple brought their daughter with them to the meeting, thinking it would be a good educational experience for her.

"By joining the meeting, we realized more about China and its policies," said Sarkis Muradian, a materials expert working in Huzhou.

Nadia Meintjes Liu, from South Africa, took part in the event for the second time. She feels the meetings have given her a deeper, more intuitive understanding of schools and villages in China.

"I wrote an article called 'Walk into the People's Congress' last year, and I will definitely write another one about the campaign this year and share it with more foreign friends to let them know more about Huzhou," she said.

Sohail Muhammad from Pakistan is eager to do his part in aiding the development of Huzhou.

"All foreigners and Chinese working here are a family, and we will try our best to make Huzhou a prosperous city," said Muhammad, who teaches at the China Yangtze River Delta Research Institute of the University of Electronic Science and Technology.

Shen Xiaorong, director of the overseas Chinese and foreign affairs committee of the Huzhou people's congress, stressed the significant role such meetings play in fostering ties with people from other countries.

"As an innovative measure of the Huzhou people's congress to continuously deepen international exchanges, the meeting has become an important channel for more foreign friends to learn about China, the people's congress system and Huzhou," Shen said. "We will continue to hold such meetings, better connect Huzhou with the world and make positive contributions to the high-level development of a model city of ecological civilization."

Zhang Dandan in Huzhou contributed to this story.