4. We made issues of public concern the focus of our intensified efforts to inspect compliance with laws and oversee work performance.
We earnestly exercised the oversight powers granted to us by the Constitution and other laws. While continuing to pursue a problem-oriented approach, we intensified our oversight work and adopted new oversight methods, thereby increasing its effectiveness.
1) We made strengthening law compliance inspections a top priority.
The vitality and authority of the law lie in its implementation. In taking the strict implementation of laws as a key task in advancing the law-based governance of China, we continued to strengthen and improve inspections of compliance with laws. Over the past four years, we have carried out a total of 20 inspections. In 2016, we inspected compliance with six laws, namely the Food Safety Law, the Law on Workplace Safety, the Road Traffic Safety Law, the Environmental Protection Law, the Water Law, and the Law on Promoting the Application of Scientific and Technological Advances.
Through practice, we have continuously deepened our understanding of the patterns that underpin the work of inspecting compliance with laws, and have developed a procedure for this work, which consists of the following six steps:
First, the subject of the inspection is determined. Inspections will focus on laws related to issues of pressing importance for economic and social development and of common concern among the people.
Second, inspection is well organized. I, as Chairman, and the vice chairpersons of the Standing Committee lead inspection groups in inspecting law compliance in various localities. We make use of both inspections by the Standing Committee and inspections by local people's congresses entrusted by us, so as to expand the coverage of inspection. We emphasize the importance of visiting the community level to see real conditions there, so as to ensure problems are accurately identified.
Third, a comprehensive report detailing inspection results is produced. The report should contain practical and effective suggestions and serve as an important basis on which problems can be addressed and relevant systems improved.
Fourth, thorough deliberation on the inspection report is carried out. Members of the Standing Committee fully express their opinions and pool their knowledge. If necessary, a special inquiry is organized based on the deliberation, with leading officials from the State Council and its relevant departments in attendance to hear comments and answer questions.
Fifth, impetus is provided to the improvement of actual work. We urge the State Council, the Supreme People's Court, and the Supreme People's Procuratorate to carefully examine and handle our inspection and deliberation results and adopt effective measures to resolve pronounced problems, with relevant special committees of the NPC exercising follow-up oversight.
Sixth, the State Council, the Supreme People's Court, and the Supreme People's Procuratorate are required to report on their rectification work. We then make arrangements for deliberating their reports in view of actual conditions.
These six steps form a complete process for carrying out oversight on the implementation of laws, enabling our oversight work to become more systematic, targeted, and effective.
2) We helped ensure the people's safety in life and work.
We inspected compliance with three laws in the field of public safety and carried out special inquiries on them. We urged governments at all levels to affirm and practice the principle of putting people first and pursuing safe development, and to work hard to guarantee food, transportation, and workplace safety.
Food is the most basic necessity of the people, and safety must be the top priority in food production. Putting into practice General Secretary Xi Jinping's requirements of applying the strictest possible standards, oversight, punishment, and accountability to ensure food safety, we inspected compliance with the Food Safety Law nationwide, covering every step from farm to table. Special attention was given to key areas such as edible agricultural products and infant formula, to places where groups of people eat together such as kindergartens and schools, to weak links in food safety oversight and supervision, and to prominent problems in the regulation of food vendors, small-scale food production sites, and online food ordering. On the basis of the inspection, we put forward responsible suggestions and comments to help ensure that every bite of food is safe. Giving earnest consideration to our comments and suggestions, the State Council developed the National Plan for the 13th Five-Year Plan Period for Food Safety. Local authorities also acted promptly to strengthen their oversight institutions and capability for ensuring food safety, and adopted strong measures to tackle prominent problems in food production and sale. Food and drug supervisory and regulatory authorities investigated and handled 106,000 violations of laws or regulations. Public security agencies uncovered more than 8,300 food safety offences. A total of 18 provincial-level governments introduced new, or revised existing, local statutes and regulations to better regulate food production and processing by small producers and vendors.
When inspecting compliance with the Law on Workplace Safety, inspection groups entered mines, factory workshops, and construction sites, so as to hear firsthand what the people in the field had to say and stress the importance of never sacrificing safety for the sake of development. Based on what we learned from the inspection, we urged relevant authorities to ensure production and operations entities have fulfilled their primary responsibilities, impose in accordance with the law stringent punishments for violations of workplace safety laws or regulations, and intensify focused efforts to tackle problems in key industries and sectors.
When inspecting compliance with the Road Traffic Safety Law, we targeted prominent issues such as trucks being illegally modified or carrying oversized and overweight loads, electric bikes exceeding stipulated standards, and deficiencies in traffic safety facilities on rural roads. Inspection groups acquired an in-depth understanding of the situation through a variety of methods such as unannounced visits and investigations, field surveys, and questionnaires. We required that supervision and oversight over the enforcement of the law be strengthened and serious measures be taken to stop illegal production, sale, and use of vehicles.
During the special inquiries that followed the law compliance inspections, members of the Standing Committee had face-to-face discussions with leading officials of the State Council and its relevant departments to get to the root of the problems and discuss measures for improvement so as to ensure people's safety in life and work.
3) We gave impetus to ecological and environmental conservation and improvements.
In actively responding to the people's earnest expectation for a good environment, in 2014 we comprehensively revised the Environmental Protection Law; in 2016, we inspected compliance with this law and held a special inquiry following the inspection, and for the first time, heard and deliberated the State Council's report on the state of the environment and the fulfillment of environmental protection targets. We required relevant authorities to ensure full enforcement of environmental protection laws and regulations and put great effort into addressing the environmental problems which are of great concern to the people, such as air, water, and soil pollution, so that the people can really feel improvements in the environment. We urged local governments at all levels to make annual reports on the state of the environment and the fulfillment of their environmental protection targets to people's congresses at the same level and their standing committees in accordance with the law, and to willingly accept oversight by people's congresses and the public.
Lush mountains and lucid waters are as valuable as gold and silver. We inspected compliance with the Water Law, carried out research investigations on the implementation of the Law on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, and heard and deliberated the State Council's report on the establishment and management of nature reserves. We required that the strictest possible management system for water resources be put into action, the protection of water ecosystems and management of water environments be strengthened, sustainable use of water resources be guaranteed, and efforts to protect and restore natural ecosystems be accelerated, so that we can forever keep our mountains green and our waters clear.
4) We helped to ensure steady and sound economic and social development.
We kept firmly in mind the Party Central Committee's major decisions and plans on economic work, as we worked to strengthen oversight of economic work as well as review and oversight of government budgets and final accounts. We heard and deliberated the State Council's reports on the implementation of the plan for national economic and social development, on the management of state-owned assets and reform of their management system, and on scientific and technological innovation in agriculture and forestry. We inspected the implementation of the Law on Promoting the Application of Scientific and Technological Advances. We emphasized that the government should adapt to, approach in the right way, and steer the new normal in economic development; press ahead with supply-side structural reform; ensure substantive progress in cutting overcapacity, reducing excess inventory, deleveraging, lowering costs, and strengthening areas of weakness; put great effort into pursuing innovation-driven development; work quickly to replace old drivers of growth with new ones; effectively guard against and defuse risks; and ensure a good start to the 13th Five-Year Plan.
We heard and deliberated the State Council's reports on the final accounts of the central government, on budget implementation, and on auditing work, and examined and approved the 2015 central government final accounts and the revision of the 2016 central government budget. We heard and deliberated the State Council's reports on the rectification of problems discovered in auditing and on the progress achieved in deepening reform of the system of transfer payments. We required that the proactive fiscal policy be well implemented, reform of fiscal and tax systems and relevant legislative initiatives be accelerated, the compilation and management of budgets and final accounts be put under standard procedures, the effectiveness and transparency of transfer payments be raised, and management of local government debt be strengthened. To see greater participation of deputies and the public in the work of budget review, we formulated the guidelines on establishing a mechanism for soliciting opinions from deputies and people from all sectors of society before government budgets are reviewed.
We also heard and deliberated the State Council's reports on the progress of the reform and development of higher education and on the enforcement of the Law on Entry and Exit Administration. We conducted research on the development and implementation of supporting rules and regulations for the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy.
5) We worked hard to promote the spirit of the Constitution.
We comprehensively implemented the system of pledging allegiance to the Constitution. We organized, in accordance with the law, six ceremonies for 25 officials to publicly pledge allegiance to the Constitution when they took office, demonstrating the sanctity and authority of the Constitution. On the occasion of the third National Constitution Day, and the opening of a history exhibition hall for the 1954 Constitution in Hangzhou, General Secretary Xi Jinping gave important instructions, stressing that raising public awareness of the Constitution is an important task in advancing the law-based governance of China. The General Office of the NPC Standing Committee, together with relevant departments of the central authorities and the Standing Committee of the Zhejiang Provincial People's Congress, organized a National Constitution Day seminar in Hangzhou to spread knowledge of the Constitution and promote its implementation.
We heard and deliberated the State Council's report on the implementation of the resolution on the sixth five-year initiative to popularize knowledge of the law, and adopted a resolution on launching the seventh five-year initiative to raise public awareness of the rule of law. We required that great effort be made to understand and communicate General Secretary Xi Jinping's major expositions on comprehensively advancing the law-based governance of China, give play to the role of the "critical minority" consisting of leading officials in promoting the practice of respecting, studying, abiding by, and applying the law throughout society and particularly among public servants, and affirm the authority of the Constitution and other laws.
Attaching great importance to ensuring judicial impartiality, we heard and deliberated the report of the Supreme People's Court on enhancing judicial openness and the report of the Supreme People's Procuratorate on strengthening oversight of investigative activities. We helped improve judicial credibility through our efforts to promote deepened reform of the judicial system, increase judicial openness, and standardize judicial behavior.
We formulated the procedures for recording and reviewing normative documents to standardize and institutionalize this work. Over the past year, we reviewed every one of the 30-plus administrative regulations and judicial interpretations submitted by the State Council, the Supreme People's Court, and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, handling 92 suggestions on the review work from various departments. We conducted oversight to ensure correction of provisions discovered to be inconsistent with the law, so as to safeguard the unity of the country's legal system.