The general office of the State Council has issued a circular requiring all national government ministries and provincial governments to clean up administrative rules and regulations that have expired or that are inconsistent with existing law by October 2007, according to a March 7 post on the China Court web site. The legal affairs office of the State Council will conduct the review of national administrative regulations, while local governments and ministries will handle the review of local administrative rules.
Regulations (or rules) whose content has been replaced by more recent national law (or regulation), shall be declared invalid. If inconsistencies exist, amendments shall be made. The circular notes that this effort is aimed at ensuring the consistency and uniformity of national law.
The circular illustrates the strong preference of Chinese authorities for relying on top-down administrative review to handle conflicts between laws and regulations and ensure the consistency of Chinese law. Article 41 of the Chinese Administrative Litigation Law authorizes courts to hear cases regarding the validity of specific individual illegal acts of government officials, not facial challenges to the validity of regulations. As a result, inconsistencies between laws and regulations must be handled internally within and between government agencies. Vesting this function in the legal affairs offices of the State Council (and perhaps their provincial counterparts) makes these organizations extremely important players in the Chinese legal system.
Questions remain as to whether the circular will have the desired effect. Local government authorities who are made responsible for deciding the legality of their own rules and regulations may tend to uphold them.