The chairman of China’s National People's Congress Standing Committee, Zhang Dejiang, promised Sunday that he would try to push reforms on grave public concerns such as combating pollution, food safety and corruption in government this year, the South China Morning Post, or SCMP, reported.
China’s Premier Li Keqiang, at the opening session of the NPC's annual meeting last week, also spoke about the need to focus on controlling pollution, at a time when air pollution is reportedly killing thousands in Chinese cities and lung-cancer cases in Beijing have nearly doubled in the years between 2002 and 2011. In February, the Chinese government raised Beijing's four-tiered smog alert to “orange,” the second-highest level, prompting school closures and health advisories suggesting children and the elderly stay indoors.
Zhang mentioned in his speech Sunday that tackling pollution will be the NPC’s top priorities this year along with the Food Safety Law that addresses the issue of food contamination, yet another subject that has garnered headlines and citizens' anger, following reports of cadmium-tainted rice, rat and fox meat being sold as lamb, "gutter oil" reused as cooking oil and dirty ice used in fast-food restaurants.
"We will revise the Environmental Protection Law and the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law to improve environmental protection and management so that emissions of all pollutants are strictly supervised," Zhang reportedly said, while delivering his annual work report to delegates, according to SCMP.
"[We will] enforce the strictest systems for protecting the environment by controlling pollution at the source, holding polluters accountable and ensuring that they compensate for the damage they cause," he added.
Zhang also promised to strengthen the powers of the State Council, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (the state prosecutor’s office) this year.
"We need to focus oversight on major reform, development and stability issues and on sensitive issues of particular concern to the people," Zhang reportedly said.
Corruption has been another problem that China's ruling Communist Party has been working to tackle with many high-profile convictions aimed at dissuading provincial leaders from taking bribes and leading a lavish lifestyle beyond what's afforded by a civil servant's income.
An investigation into a corruption scandal, which broke out in Hengyang in Hunan province in December, accused 518 members of the local government's 527 members of taking bribes adding up to 110 million yuan ($17.9 million). And, former Chinese security chief Zhou Yongkang, a former Politburo standing committee member, is reportedly under virtual house arrest while the Communist Party continues an ongoing investigating on corruption charges against Zhou and his colleagues.
"We are keenly aware that the work of the [NPC] Standing Committee still falls well short of the expectations of the people and the demands of deputies," Zhang said, adding that the Hengyang case "exerted a destructive influence and was a stern warning. We must strengthen the organization and leadership of the election of NPC deputies … uphold the authority and sanctity of the system of people's congresses … and of the constitution and laws," according to SCMP.
The NPC is also expected to address reports from the State Council on implementing far-reaching reforms and on ways to strengthen financial regulation to reduce risks to the economy, SCMP reported.