China's parliament approves changes to speed up 'emergency' laws
BEIJING, March 13 (Reuters) - China's parliament approved changes to a law on Monday that would allow it to pass emergency legislation more quickly, the official Xinhua news agency reported, a move that analysts say could further erode public debate and scrutiny.
The amendment to the Legislation Law, which governs how laws are enacted, gives the highest body of the national parliament, the roughly 170-member National People's Congress Standing Committee, special powers to pass laws after just one review session.
It is an "important measure" to "further improve the quality and efficiency of legislation", and an "inevitable requirement for strengthening the (ruling Communist) party's overall leadership over legislative work", according to readouts from delegates' meetings published during the annual parliamentary gathering, which closed on Monday morning.
Draft laws and amendments in China are normally published to solicit public comments, and are voted in by its rubber-stamp parliament after being deliberated during at least two meetings of the NPC Standing Committee, a process that can take several months.
However, there have been exceptions in the past.
Three years ago, China imposed a national security law on the semiautonomous city of Hong Kong, criminalising a broad range of vaguely defined offences intended to stifle dissent.
Critics say that legislation, also passed after being reviewed only once by the NPC Standing Committee, further eroded the rule of law in Hong Kong and crushed the financial hub's freedoms.
China has repeatedly brushed off criticism of the law, saying it protects Hong Kong residents' freedoms and only targets a small minority of "criminals" who "endanger national security".
Julian Ku, professor of constitutional law at Hofstra University in New York, said the amended Legislation Law could be "abused and may well be abused in ramming through laws without much consultation or public notice."
The latest draft of the law, published March 5, did not define what constitutes an emergency situation. The final text has not yet been made public.
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