Providing Legal Guarantees and Services for Winning the Battle Against COVID-19
On February 5, 2020, General Secretary Xi Jinping presided over the third meeting of the Central Commission for Overall Law-based Governance and delivered an important speech. In this speech, he described the importance of law-based action in epidemic prevention and control, presented meticulous analysis of the rule of law as a fundamental support for the modernization of China's national governance system and capacity, and put forward strategic arrangements for upholding law-based prevention and control, coordinating relevant initiatives in a law-based manner, and comprehensively advancing law-based governance. These remarks represent basic guidelines for ensuring that anti-epidemic work is conducted in a law-based manner and for elevating China's practice of the rule of law.
I. The more strenuous epidemic prevention and control becomes, the more important it is to take law-based action.
Effective epidemic prevention and control has a direct bearing on the people's health and safety, on overall economic development and social stability, and on China's reform and opening up. The rule of law is the basic means through which the CPC governs the nation, and a powerful tool in its response to major public health emergencies. General Secretary Xi has emphasized that the more strenuous epidemic prevention and control becomes, the more important it is to take all actions according to law. This important idea shows that the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core takes law-based prevention and control and law-based governance seriously, and is determined to resolve problems in epidemic prevention and control and protect the lives and health of the people through law-based measures.
We have carried out epidemic prevention and control under the centralized and unified leadership of the Central Committee, and upheld the Party's leadership over law-based prevention and control and law-based governance.
The CPC's centralized and unified leadership is a strong political guarantee for winning the battle against COVID-19. The Central Committee has taken the epidemic very seriously since it began. General Secretary Xi has personally taken command and made arrangements, convening meetings of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee and its Standing Committee, planning sessions for coordinating epidemic prevention and control and economic and social development, and meetings of the Central Commission for Overall Law-based Governance, the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, the Central Commission for Deepening Reform, and the Central Foreign Affairs Commission. He also conducted site visits in Beijing to inspect and direct epidemic prevention and control work, and listened to reports and delivered instructions on the subject on multiple occasions. The Central Committee set up a group to lead the epidemic response, mandated that the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council should take charge of coordination, issued the Notice on Strengthening Party Leadership to Provide Firm Political Guarantee for Winning the Battle against Novel Coronavirus, and sent guiding teams to severely affected regions such as Hubei to fight the epidemic on the front line. All localities and departments have acted in line with the Central Committee's unified command, coordination, and arrangements, strengthened joint prevention and control, worked actively to save patients infected with the virus, and devoted full effort to safeguarding public wellbeing and stability, thus strengthening epidemic prevention and control across the board through all-out mobilization and comprehensive planning. Epidemic prevention and control stretches across multiple domains including public safety, public security management, and market supervision, while law-based prevention and control involves multiple aspects such as lawmaking, law enforcement, administration of justice, and observance of the law. Since these efforts deal with such a wide range of complex and heavy tasks, it is essential to ensure coordination between them. Only by upholding the role of the Central Committee in exercising overall leadership and integrating various forces can we bring together a truly coordinated nationwide response in epidemic prevention and control that unites all levels in a determined effort.
Working CPC members on duty with a CPC organization in Laoshan Sub-district, Shijingshan District, Beijing, February 7, 2020. Their efforts have further strengthened front-line prevention and control at the community level by ensuring broad participation and coordination. PHOTO BY BEIJING EVENING NEWS REPORTER WU DI
We have put the health and safety of the people first, and ensured that the rule of law serves the people as intended.
After the novel coronavirus struck, the people's health and safety has remained General Secretary Xi's utmost concern. He has repeatedly emphasized that this must be the absolute priority, and that no effort should be spared to save patients. All provincial authorities and central departments have mobilized and organized the public and looked to the people for support as they have worked actively to implement joint prevention and control measures. While safeguarding public health and keeping people's lives stable, they have also built powerful synergy for getting through these hard times together. The people are the principal actors and the source of strength that feed law-based governance of the country. All efforts to develop the rule of law are aimed at safeguarding the fundamental interests of the people, while serving, relying on, benefiting, and protecting the people. Law-based epidemic prevention and control, which includes the formulation and revision of laws, the introduction of policies and measures, the enforcement of laws and regulations, and the provision of legal services, must give top priority to safeguarding the people's lives and health and their legitimate rights and interests. We must solicit the people's opinions and advice and understand their appeals. We must judge whether we have remained true to our original aspiration and mission by our performance in epidemic prevention and control, and use law-based measures to safeguard the lives and health of the people.
We have comprehensively improved our capacity for law-based prevention and control and law-based governance, and advanced epidemic prevention and control in line with the law.
General Secretary Xi has stressed the importance of conducting prevention and control in a law-based, precise, and orderly manner since these efforts are now in a critical stage. We must uphold law-based prevention and control and coordinate the advancement of relevant work in line with the law in order to ensure smooth execution of these tasks. The rule of law is a stabilizer that maintains the normal order and operation of society. It clearly defines the principles, procedures, and measures used to deal with emergency situations, as well as the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of relevant actors, thus providing the basis for conducting epidemic prevention and control in a precise, orderly, and law-based manner. The rule of law is also an effective way to strengthen social immunity and enhance overall fighting capacity. We must incorporate law-based thinking and methods into all aspects of epidemic prevention and control, and make the rule of law the basic consensus and code of conduct throughout society, thereby providing solid legal guarantees for winning the battle against COVID-19. We should make law-based efforts to crack down on illegal and criminal activities jeopardizing epidemic prevention and control efforts, regulate charitable donations, local community governance, and releases of epidemic-related information, and handle disputes regarding issues such as contracts, labor, medical care, and product quality that have arisen as a result of the epidemic in a timely manner. Moreover, we should use legal standards to assess the legality and rationality of emergency administrative regulations and the specific administrative actions employed by local governments and relevant departments in epidemic prevention and control.
Law-based governance is a prominent advantage of the Chinese socialist state system and national governance system, and we must continue to make the rule of law more efficient in promoting the modernization of our governance system and governance capacity.
This epidemic has put our country to the test, and highlighted the urgent need to modernize our national governance. While we must focus on the present situation and improve our systems and mechanisms for the prevention and control of major epidemics, we must also think about the long term as we advance the rule of law and modernize national governance. On the road to realizing the dream of making our country strong, and as we work to modernize our national governance, we will be confronted with numerous risks and challenges. Some of these come from within our borders, and others from abroad; some come from the economic and social spheres, and others from the natural world. The rule of law is an important buttress of a state's governance system and capacity. Therefore, we should further exert the role of the rule of law in the modernization of our national governance system and capacity so that our institutions are strong enough to cushion the impact of risks and challenges. We must uphold unity between the leadership of the Party, the supremacy of the people, and the rule of law, and focus on strengthening our foundations, leveraging our strengths, addressing our inadequacies, and shoring up our weaknesses. We must continue to improve top-level design for comprehensive law-based governance, promote innovation and advancement in the practice of law-based governance, and coordinate various initiatives to accelerate the development of a socialist rule of law system with Chinese characteristics and a country built on socialist rule of law. By doing so, we will see that our institutional strengths are applied more effectively in governance.
II. We must advance epidemic prevention and control work in a law-based manner.
To advance epidemic prevention and control in an effective and orderly manner, we must rely on the rule of law, recognize its important role in creating solid foundations, stabilizing expectations, and yielding long-term benefits, and take advantage of its role in guaranteeing stability and easing pressure during this special period when prevention and control measures are in place. General Secretary Xi emphasized that we must make comprehensive efforts in lawmaking, law enforcement, administration of justice, and observance of the law in order to ensure that prevention and control is conducted in a precise, coordinated, and law-based manner. The third meeting of the Central Commission for Overall Law-based Governance reviewed and adopted guidelines on law-based efforts for COVID-19 prevention and control to effectively safeguard the people's lives and health, identifying key tasks and making specific arrangements in lawmaking, law enforcement, administration of justice, and observance of the law.
We must improve legislation on epidemic prevention and control.
General Secretary Xi pointed out that we must improve legislation on epidemic prevention and control, strengthen supporting systems, and build a complete, well-conceived, well-regulated, and effective legal system for epidemic prevention and control. Legislation is a fundamental component of law-based epidemic prevention and control. The numerous tasks involved in epidemic prevention and control can only be fulfilled in an orderly manner when there is a legal basis for such efforts. Epidemic prevention and control mainly involves specialized prevention and treatment and emergency response in the public health sector. In recent years, drawing on the painful lessons of the SARS outbreak, we have formulated and refined laws and regulations including the Law on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, the Emergency Response Law, the Wildlife Protection Law, the Law on Animal Epidemic Prevention, and the Regulations on Public Health Emergency Response. We have thus improved the legal system for national disease prevention and control, created a relatively complete set of institutions for the prevention and control of infectious diseases, and generally ensured that there is a legal basis for epidemic prevention and control. However, we must be soberly aware that relevant laws and regulations remain inadequate and incongruous in some areas, and therefore it is extremely urgent that we shore up deficiencies and close loopholes. We need to go through all relevant laws and regulations and review the lessons we have learned through their implementation so that we can remedy inadequacies and weaknesses that have been exposed in epidemic prevention and control efforts. We must focus on key points, push through challenges, promptly rectify deficiencies, and promote improvements in relevant laws and regulations to create a complete chain of legal systems for epidemic prevention and control. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress has made a special resolution to use the strictest possible legal stipulations to crack down on all illegal hunting, trade, and consumption of wild animals, completely prohibit illegal wild animal trading, and eliminate the distasteful custom of eating wild animals, with a view to effectively safeguarding the people's health. We will revise and refine the Wildlife Protection Law, the implementation regulations for the protection of terrestrial wildlife, and the implementation regulations for the protection of aquatic wildlife, work faster to revise the Law on Animal Epidemic Prevention, and promote biosafety legislation, with a view to effectively preventing and controlling major outbreaks of new infectious diseases and animal and plant epidemics. We should also accelerate efforts to revise the Law on Penalties for Administration of Public Security, and crack down on illegal acts related to epidemic prevention and control. At the same time, we must boost the utility of our legal system for epidemic prevention and control by strengthening supporting systems, and making revisions, refining details, and offering clarification wherever necessary.
A law enforcement officer from the Wudi County Market Regulation Bureau in Shandong Province conducts a spot inspection of medicines at a chain pharmacy, February 6, 2020. XINHUA / PHOTO BY CHEN ZIQING
We must strictly implement laws and regulations on epidemic prevention and control.
General Secretary Xi pointed out that we must strictly implement laws and regulations on epidemic prevention and control and emergency response, enhance risk assessment, make decisions in a prudent and law-based manner, and strictly implement prevention and control measures in accordance with the law, in a resolute effort to prevent the epidemic from spreading. Creating a law is easy; the hard part is implementing it. The vitality and authority of the law lie in its implementation. This epidemic has exposed deficiencies in legislation, as well as issues stemming from inadequate implementation of legal systems including non-compliance and lax enforcement. For example, some localities overstepped the limits of their law enforcement powers or violated legal procedures when introducing prevention and control measures, while a small number of departments failed to ensure unified standards or stringency in law enforcement. We must rectify these problems and take resolute steps to guarantee law-based prevention and control. We need to make full use of existing laws and regulations, and conduct all epidemic prevention and control work in a law-based and orderly manner. We must implement epidemic prevention and control and emergency response measures in accordance with the law, acting in strict compliance with legally prescribed limits and procedures to apply measures such as regional blockades, patient quarantines, transport controls, and special requirements for the handling of remains as the situation develops, thus effectively ensuring standardized and orderly epidemic prevention and control. We need to strengthen law enforcement regarding public security management and market supervision, ensure that the law is enforced in a strict, impartial, standardized, and civil manner, and strictly handle all violations of laws and regulations. Targeting problems in administrative law enforcement that have emerged during epidemic prevention and control, we will formulate and introduce guidelines for standardization in order to ensure that administrative law enforcement conforms to unified criteria and procedures. We will also regulate the giving and receiving of donations in accordance with the law, and ensure that all donations are promptly put toward epidemic prevention and control. In addition, we will intensify law enforcement for wildlife protection, and crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trading, thus guarding against major public health threats at the source.
A staff member from the Dingzhou Market Regulation Bureau in Hebei Province checks prices at a supermarket, on February 9, 2020 as part of an effort to combat price gouging during the epidemic and keep prices stable.
PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER ZHU XUDONG
We must crack down on all kinds of illegal and criminal activities hindering epidemic prevention and control.
General Secretary Xi emphasized that we must strengthen law enforcement and administration of justice against activities hindering epidemic prevention and control, and crack down on illegal and criminal activities such as resisting epidemic prevention and control measures, committing violence against medical staff, producing and selling counterfeit goods, and starting and spreading rumors, in order to guarantee social stability and order. On February 23, General Secretary Xi reiterated at the planning session on coordinating COVID-19 prevention and control with economic and social development that we must severely punish illegal and criminal acts that disrupt the normal functioning of medical services, anti-epidemic measures, the market, and society in accordance with the law. The Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Justice jointly issued guidelines on punishing illegal and criminal activities hindering COVID-19 prevention and control in accordance with the law, in an effort to provide effective policy guidance for cracking down on these activities. Judicial institutions have maintained a tough stance on epidemic prevention and control, swiftly and strictly handling a number of criminal cases related to the epidemic and demonstrating the authority of the rule of law.
We must do better at educating people about the rule of law and providing legal services for epidemic prevention and control.
General Secretary Xi emphasized that we must enhance educating the public about the rule of law and providing legal services for epidemic prevention and control. He said that we must help the general public raise awareness of the rule of law, offer law-based support for epidemic prevention and control, redouble efforts to defuse conflicts and disputes during the epidemic, and provide effective legal assistance to those in need. This epidemic has revealed that some officials and members of the public lack legal awareness, and need to raise their familiarity with the rule of law. Violations such as concealing information of past travel to areas hit hard by the epidemic and refusing to self-isolate are not only immoral, but also illegal, and have a serious impact on public health and safety. As prevention and control measures were being put in place, the National Law Promotion Office put together questions and answers on legal knowledge related to COVID-19 prevention and control, and launched a special publicity campaign on the theme of "the rule of law for epidemic prevention and control." We must further enhance efforts to increase public awareness of the law, fully exert the role of mainstream media and new media, and thoroughly publicize the CPC Central Committee's major decisions and plans as well as the specific measures taken in law-based prevention and control by various local authorities and departments and their effects. We must also guide the general public in abiding by laws and regulations, refusing to start or spread rumors, and cooperating with prevention and control efforts in accordance with the law. Law enforcement bodies, judicial bodies, and their employees should set an example in taking responsibility for increasing public awareness of the law. They should focus their efforts on strengthening publicity and education on the rule of law as it pertains to prevention and control of infectious diseases, emergency management, wildlife protection, and the maintenance of economic and social order while anti-epidemic measures are in place, thus helping all members of society conduct themselves in accordance with the law. We must actively launch campaigns to increase public awareness of the law for epidemic prevention and control at the community level. Targeting prominent issues in epidemic prevention and control and major issues of public concern, we must ensure that relevant laws and regulations are explained to people while epidemic prevention and control measures are being implemented in their communities. We will also arrange for lawyers and other legal staff to provide the public with free legal services through platforms such as the Legal Services of China website and offer legal aid to people in need regarding difficult issues encountered during epidemic prevention and control. In addition, we should strive to defuse conflicts and disputes during the epidemic by improving mechanisms to prevent them at the source, identify and warn against them, and resolve them through multiple means. We should also facilitate effective coordination between the roles of the people, the government, and the judiciary in mediating disputes, and promptly address budding problems and worrisome trends in epidemic prevention and control, with a view to promoting social harmony and stability.
III. We must use law-based thinking and methods to advance epidemic prevention and control in coordination with economic and social development.
General Secretary Xi emphasized that Party committees and governments at all levels must fulfill their duties in accordance with the law, uphold law-based thinking and methods in conducting epidemic prevention and control, promote the development of a law-based government in the process of handling major emergencies, and enhance the law-based nature of governance and administration. In 2020, we will reach our objective of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and bring the 13th Five-Year Plan to a conclusion, and thus we face arduous tasks in reform, development, and stability this year. On the one hand, we must persist in using law-based thinking and methods to ensure effective epidemic prevention and control. On the other hand, we must take active and law-based steps to enhance stability in employment, the financial sector, foreign trade, foreign investment, domestic investment, and market expectations. By doing so, we will leverage the role of the rule of law in regulating, guiding, and guaranteeing economic and social development and ensure that we meet this year's development targets.
Party committees and governments at all levels must fulfill their duties in accordance with the law.
When confronted with a major public health emergency like the one we are currently facing, Party committees and governments at all levels and relevant departments must make decisions and perform their duties in accordance with the law. They must be skilled at using law-based thinking to resolve difficult issues in epidemic prevention and control, and using law-based methods to defuse conflicts and maintain stability. We must integrate law-based and orderly prevention and control with the development of a law-based government. We should make it so that the performance of governments at all levels in promoting law-based epidemic prevention and control is included as an important component in assessing their achievements in developing law-based governance, and encourage governments at all levels to enhance their capacity for law- based administration in handling major emergencies. To enhance responsibility for law enforcement, departments related to economic development and reform, industry and information technology, commerce, market supervision, transportation, resources, and the environment should step up law enforcement concerning issues such as production, distribution, emergency supplies, and price controls for medical goods and daily necessities. They should also boost enforcement concerning wildlife protection and supervision over the wildlife trade, ensuring that the law is enforced in a strict, impartial, and civil manner and according to defined standards. Disease control and medical care institutions must promptly and accurately report on epidemic information in line with legally prescribed requirements, procedures, methods, and time limits. The government and relevant departments must make information regarding prevention and control policies and measures as well as relevant progress and major matters available to the public in accordance with the law, and respond to public concerns in a timely manner, in an effort to enhance government credibility. There should be appropriate division of responsibility between the judicial, prosecuting, and public security organs. They should work closely together, and make use of all law enforcement and judicial measures available to crack down on all types of illegal and criminal activities hindering epidemic prevention and control, in an all-out effort to maintain social harmony and stability.
We must coordinate law-based efforts with economic and social development.
While ensuring that epidemic prevention and control efforts are effectively implemented, we must focus on exerting the role of the rule of law in regulating and guaranteeing economic and social development, and provide a sound legal environment for people to resume their normal work and life in an orderly manner. We must work to promote high-quality economic development, ensure that the resumption of work and production proceeds in a law-based and orderly manner and on a region- and level-specific basis, and continue to provide legal guarantees for furthering reform, expanding opening up, strengthening scientific and technological innovation, and promoting the application of new infrastructure and the development of major projects. We need to create a law-based business environment, fully implement regulations for optimizing the business environment, and ensure that enterprises resuming work and production are provided with effective administrative services as well as guidance and supervision regarding epidemic prevention and control measures in accordance with the law. We need to augment the filing and review of regulations and rules related to optimization of the business environment, and improve mechanisms whereby private enterprises are afforded equal protection by the legal system in order to protect lawful property of private enterprises and entrepreneurs. We need to strengthen legal guarantees for major national development strategies, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, integration of the Yangtze River Delta region, development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt, ecological protection and high-quality development in the Yellow River Basin, comprehensive furthering of reform and opening up in Hainan, and development of national free trade zones. We must also focus on providing effective legal guarantees for the development of Xiongan New Area and the establishment of a pilot demonstration zone for socialism with Chinese characteristics in Shenzhen. We must provide more substantial legal guarantees for poverty alleviation, channel legal resources toward underdeveloped regions, thoroughly integrate efforts to strengthen the rule of law in the countryside with the fight to eradicate poverty, and fully exert the role of the rule of law in supporting rural development and governance. We should redouble efforts to analyze and assess risks so that we are able to anticipate them and guard against them in advance. We should adopt law-based measures to protect national security and social stability by preventing and neutralizing threats while they are still in the nascent stage. We also need to enhance foreign-related legal work, fully implement the Foreign Investment Law and its supporting regulations, make law-based efforts to ensure that industrial chains and supply chains for foreign trade operate smoothly, continue to push opening up to a higher level, and leverage the effects of the rule of law to boost the confidence of foreign businesses in investing and operating in China over the long term.
We must vigorously promote the fulfillment of our objectives in law-based prevention and control and law-based governance.
It is crucial that our efforts are concrete, meticulous, and effective in order to strengthen the rule of law and coordinate epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development. We must ensure that we follow through with our responsibilities, implement concrete and meticulous supervision and guidance on law-based epidemic prevention and control, and step up efforts to analyze and assess post-epidemic risks while responding to them through law-based means. By doing so, we will increase our capacity to fulfill central tasks and perform duties in accordance with the law as we work to beat COVID-19. Acting in line with the arrangements of the CPC Central Committee, the Office of the Commission for Overall Law-based Governance must effectively fulfill its tasks in developing the rule of law, encourage the commission's coordination groups to define their respective key tasks, and guide local authorities in promptly drafting and refining agendas for their main work this year. We must enhance supervision over implementation, intensify follow-up supervision, and conduct focused supervision at key points in the fulfillment of relevant tasks. We must also carry out more rigorous inspections of implementation, make law-based epidemic prevention and control and the implementation of key tasks an important part of our inspections regarding the development of a law-based government, and conduct inspections of local Party and government leaders to evaluate their performance in fulfilling their duties as persons charged with primary responsibility for advancing the rule of law, with a view to ensuring that the Central Committee's decisions and plans take root and grow into real results.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 5, 2020)