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China: Shenzhen Document on Building Government Ruled by Law

(Apr. 14, 2009) On January 7, 2009, Shenzhen, in China's Guangdong Province, became the first city in China to issue an “Index System for the Building of Rule-of-Law Government.” The index is a detailed set of targets to achieve in different sectors of administration, ultimately against which the extent of the local government's achievement of rule of law might be measured. The decision on adopting the system was published in the Shenzhen Government gazette. (Decision of the Shenzhen Municipal Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and the Shenzhen Municipality People's Government on Formulating and Implementing the Index System for Shenzhen Municipality's Building of a Rule-of-Law Government (for Trial Implementation) [Doc. No. 14 of 2008], 1 GAZETTE OF THE SHENZHEN MUNICIPAL PEOPLE'S GOVERNMENT (Jan. 4, 2009) available at The text of the Index System itself appears as an appendix to the decision.

The decision states that the Index System was formulated by Shenzhen in consultation with the State Council (Cabinet) Legislative Affairs Office (LAO) in line with the State Council's “Program for Comprehensively Promoting Administration According to Law” and the “Cooperation Agreement on Accelerating Promotion of Building the Rule-by-Law Government in Shenzhen” (between the State Council LAO and the Shenzhen People's Government) as well as provincial and municipal government and Chinese Communist Party documents. The Index System comprises 12 general indices, 44 subordinate criteria, and 225 specific items and, in comparison with other relevant index systems being implemented throughout China, contains the largest number of indices and the most complete list of specific items, according to the Shenzhen legislative affairs office drafting group. The decision indicates that the objectives of establishing a government of rule of law in Shenzhen, in conformity with the provisions of the State Council “Program,” are to be realized in about three years. (Huang Chao, Shenzhen Formally Issued Index System for Rule-by-Law Government Building for First Time in Whole Country, Vowed to Realize Its Objectives Within 3 Years [in English translation], NANFANG RIBAO ONLINE, Jan. 8, 2009, Open Source Center No. CPP20090112507002; Chinese text available at

The general targets include placing the following on the basis of the rule of law: the government's legislative work; organizations, professional responsibilities, and staffing; administrative decision-making; public financial management and government investment; administrative examination and approval; administrative penalties; administrative services; openness of government information; administrative relief; administrative supervision, administrative responsibilities. The twelfth target is elevating the concept of and ability to exercise their duties according to law among government functionaries. (Id.;Decision, supra.) Specific criteria are then set forth in detail under each of these broad sectors.

For example, under the target of making government legislative work be based on the rule of law, the goal is stated first (“in proposing drafts of laws and regulations and formulating a system of rules and normative documents, build authority that is in conformity with provisions of the Constitution and laws, follow lawful procedures, …”), followed by four numbered criteria (that are further sub-numbered as 1-1, 1-2, etc.). Thus, criterion 1 is “perfection of a basic system of government legislative work”; sub-criterion 1-1 is “the municipal government establishes a uniform drafting system for drawing up laws and regulations and formulating rules as well as a system of examination of normative documents, to improve the quality of legislation and documentation.”

Soon after the issuance of the Decision, on January 17, 2009, the Shenzhen government issued Certain Opinions of the Shenzhen Municipality People's Government on Speeding Up Construction of a Government of the Rule of Law, consisting of 33 points under nine headings (Doc. No. 1 of 2009, Jan. 17, 2009, 4 GAZETTE OF THE SHENZHEN MUNICIPAL PEOPLE'S GOVERNMENT (Feb. 6, 2009), available at
). The document states, for example, that administrative policy-making mechanisms, including scientific and democratic mechanisms, should be strengthened. The former includes establishing a system of consultation with experts on major policy-making issues; the latter, systems for soliciting opinions and holding hearings on major policy matters, and further promoting and carrying out democratic policy-making. Under the heading of creating new mechanisms and elevating the quality of government legislation, the document calls for active reform of the legislative drafting system, establishment of a cost-benefit analysis system for legislation as well as a procedure for assessing results and quality of legislation, and emulation of the rule-of-law experience of international, advanced cities like Hong Kong and Singapore to perfect the legal systems of municipalities and other areas.