Delegates at China’s annual “two sessions” meeting have submitted proposals ranging from incorporating death education in schools to extending the lunar new year holiday by a few days, and stripping the constitution of all mentions of “family planning”, the country’s birth-limiting policies.
Over the last two weeks, more than 8,000 proposals were made to the national people’s congress (NPC), China’s highest legislative body, according to its secretariat. Members of the Chinese people’s political consultative conference, which convenes at the same time in the second of the two sessions, also put forward ideas.
The two sessions event, which ended on Friday, is little more than political theatre to hail the ruling Chinese Communist party, and such proposals have no real impact on the legislative process, which is largely controlled by the party leadership and other state organs. Still, they offer a rare opening for public debate and signal what topics are politically acceptable for discussion.
This year, proposals included calls for stiffer penalties for drivers using the emergency lane on roads, to introducing sexual assault prevention courses in schools. Here are some of the proposals:
Cancel family planning
Several proposals focused on how to lift China’s declining birth rates, with ideas including tax breaks, subsidies for families and improved healthcare. Some delegates called for “fertility liberation”, dropping all family planning limits, which have been in place for more than three decades and currently state Chinese couple can have no more than two children.
“Family planning is no longer appropriate,” said Huang Xihua, a delegate to the NPC and deputy secretary general of Huizhou in Guangdong province. “It doesn’t meet the requirements of this era, doesn’t fit rules of population development. We should cancel the family planning policy that aims at restricting reproduction, and release encouraging policies.”
Huang submitted a similar proposal last year, calling for all references to family planning to be removed from the constitution. This year, she also proposed that children born to single mothers be allowed hukou, household registration critical for access to the public school system and benefits.
Gu Jin, a doctor at Beijing cancer hospital and an NPC delegate, submitted a proposal for students to learn about death starting in primary school, in order to help older people die with respect and dignity.
Gu, speaking to Chinese media, said he had encountered too many late-stage cancer patients in great pain whose children refused to let them die. “Good death should also be a right,” he said, according to the Global Times.
Euthanasia is illegal in China. In June, a woman with an auto-immune illness asked her daughter, son-in-law and husband to help her end her life. The three were charged with murder.
Holding children responsible
After a series of cases involving minors committing violent crimes, including a 12-year-old boy who killed his mother, and a 13-year-old boy who killed his parents, a group of delegates proposed lowering the age of criminal responsibility.
Under Chinese law, no child aged 13 or younger can be punished under China’s criminal code, while those aged between 14 and 18 are given lighter sentences.
The proposal, which has received public support, would make children aged 12 and 13 liable for serious criminal offences such as murder. Anyone over the age of 14 would bear full criminal responsibility.
Under Xi Jinping, efforts to revive traditional Chinese culture – from promoting folk religions to rejecting foreign holidays such as Christmas – are on the increase. Several proposals focused on promoting Chinese culture at home and abroad.
Delegates called for better training in traditional calligraphy: from introducing weekly classes for primary school pupils to making it a mandatory part of entrance exams.
Other proposals were aimed at showing support for existing policies. Gong Hanlin, a Chinese actor, called for strengthened regulation on new media, which has come under more pressure from authorities over the last year for “immoral” content.
Gong said such media should focus on promoting “positive energy” and “telling Chinese stories in a good way” to the rest of the world. One Weibo user wrote in response to Gong’s proposal: “I think what the media needs is truth, not positive energy.”