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New city to have congress

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

08:45, July 18, 2012

China has stepped up its efforts to display its sovereignty over the South China Sea, as the provincial legislature of Hainan on Tuesday ratified a motion to prepare for the first people's congress in the newly established Sansha city.

Experts said the move indicates that the building of the city's political power has been initiated.

The motion, approved by the Standing Committee of the Hainan Provincial People's Congress on Tuesday, suggested establishing an organizing committee for the legislative body of Sansha. Sansha became a prefecture-level city in June. It administers the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea.

The Sansha people's congress, the legislative body of the city, will have 60 seats with five-year terms, and its standing committee will have 15 members, according to an announcement from the Hainan Provincial People's Congress Standing Committee.

After it's established, the organizing committee will hold an election for the first congress of Sansha and convene the first plenary meeting of the congress.

During the first plenary meeting, 60 elected delegates will vote for heads of the city government, court and prosecuting office. The announcement did not say when an election of the government heads will take place.

Although China's Electoral Law states that the number of seats of a local people's congress is determined according to population and should have a minimum of 120 seats, the law also allows small cities with fewer than 50,000 people, such as Sansha, to set up a local congress with fewer than 120 seats.

The Xisha Islands, part of Sansha city, have about 3,500 permanent residents and a floating population of 25,000, according to finance.china.com.cn, an information portal under the State Council Information Office and the China International Publishing Group.

Zhao Zhongshe, director of the Department of Ocean and Fisheries of Hainan, told Xinhua News Agency that the founding of Sansha city will improve China's administration of the region and help coordinate efforts to develop the islands and protect the marine environment.

Hu Jinguang, vice-president of Renmin University of China's Law School, told Southern Metropolis Daily that lawmakers at the city's people's congress will be directly elected according to the law because of the city's small population.

"The congress may even enjoy more room for legislation for its special geographic position," he told the newspaper.

The State Council approved the establishment of Sansha in June, and the government seat of Sansha will be stationed on Yongxing Island in the Xisha Islands.

Sansha city administers more than 200 islets, sandbanks and reefs in Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands, covering 13 square kilometers in island area and 2 million sq km of water.

China said it first discovered and named the reefs, islets and surrounding waters of Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands. In 1959, it became the first country to set up an administrative office to exercise sovereignty over the area.

The new city government, compared to the administrative office, will be able to better administer the islands, according to an announcement from the Ministry of Civil Affairs in June.

Huang Yiming in Haikou contributed to this story.

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