China's national lawmakers, under the title of "deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC)", will meet at a plenary annual session in Beijing from March 5 to 16. [Special coverage]
According to the NPC Standing Committee, the total number of the current 12th NPC deputies stood at 2,943 as of Feb. 26. NPC deputies are elected by people's congresses of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. The armed forces elect their own. Deputies from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan follow separate election rules decided by the NPC.
All Chinese citizens above 18 have the right to vote and run in an election of NPC deputies, which is normally held every five years, except those who have been stripped of their political rights, such as a convicted criminal. A deputy serves a term of five years.
-- What do they do at the session?
At the annual session, one important duty for NPC deputies is to review and vote on legal documents. This year, for instance, there will be six reports, a draft law and a draft five-year plan for national development.
Normally every five years, they will vote on important personnel changes, for instance, to elect the president, chief justice and procurator-general.
Another major duty is to submit motions and proposals. A group of 30 deputies at least can submit a motion while a delegation can initiate one with the endorsement of a simple majority of its members.
All NPC deputies are divided into 35 delegations, based on where they are elected from. Thirty-one of them are provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, in addition to Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and the military. Within a delegation, there will be several panels, headed by a convener.
Besides plenary meetings during the session, for instance the opening and closing meetings, deputies should also attend discussions within their own delegation.
In the past few years, delegations opened some of their plenary meetings and penal discussions to media and allowed them to be live broadcast on line.
-- What do they do off the session?
When the NPC is not in session, deputies are also required to perform duties, such as interacting and communicating with ordinary citizens.
Since deputies are part-time, the law requires them to take up training programs and take part in inspections of law enforcement and surveys on important or urgent issues. They will also be invited to observe bi-monthly legislative sessions of the NPC Standing Committee.
According to the NPC Standing Committee, the average time each deputy spends on these duties is about two months per year, excluding the time they personally spend on preparing motions and proposals to be submitted to the annual session.