BEIJING, March 16 (Xinhua) -- More than a hundred days after becoming a member of the top decision-making body of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), Zhang Dejiang was elected as China's top legislator on Thursday to lead the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the institution at the apex of state power in China.
As the ninth chairman of the NPC Standing Committee since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, 66-year-old Zhang faces many heavy responsibilities as China increasingly emphasizes reliance on the rule of law to govern the country in the new era.
Reliance on the rule of law in governing the country is the CPC's basic policy in leading the people to rule the country.
Zhang perceives the rule of law as the fruit of the progress of human civilization and the fundamental guarantee of a harmonious and healthy society and a prosperous and strong country.
The NPC is sovereign in China as it is authorized by the Constitution to elect the country's top leadership, enact laws and supervise the State Council, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. The NPC Standing Committee serves as its executive body when the NPC is not in session.
Since he was elected as a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in November last year, Zhang has reiterated several times the importance of stepping up the construction of the national democratic legal system and channeling every type of work through the legal system.
One of his major concerns is legislation in the field of the environment.
During a panel discussion on March 4 during the recently concluded annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, the top political advisory body, Zhang acknowledged the necessity of environmental legislation.
"The heavy smog that shrouded north China including Beijing for several days has further heightened public concern about environmental protection," Zhang said.
Zhang recalled that he could drink directly from a brook when he got thirsty while working as an "educated youth" in rural areas more than 40 years ago. "I'm afraid no one dares to drink directly from it now."
Zhang was sent to Luozigou Commune in Wangqing County in Jilin Province in 1968 to work as an "educated youth" -- a term referring to young intellectuals dispatched to the countryside from cities to learn from farmers during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
Zhang held the post of chairman of the Standing Committee of the Jilin Provincial People's Congress, the provincial legislative body, while serving as Jilin's Party chief from 1995 to 1998. In this role, he attached great importance to legislative work.
In fact, he undertook much exploration to improve legislative work in his jurisdiction while serving in several provincial-level regions.
"(We) should always take enhancing and safeguarding the fundamental interests of the broadest mass of the people as both the starting point and goal of legislation," Zhang said in 2005 when he served as Party secretary of Guangdong, a booming economic province in south China.
He stressed the need to follow the mass line and adhere to a democratic, open and scientific legislative process while gradually expanding citizens' orderly participation in legislative work.
When he served as Party chief of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, a post he held between March and November last year, Zhang reiterated the importance of cultivating a legal environment.
"Everyone is equal before the law and it is absolutely impermissible for any organization or individual to stand above the law," he said, calling for efforts to "resolutely prevent and oppose the practice of taking a person's words or power as a substitute for the law and intervening in individual cases."
He called for "enhanced awareness and capability to govern and serve the society through law and solve problems and settle disputes through legal means."
Noncommunist party members constitute an important part of the NPC Standing Committee.
When attending events held by noncommunist parties recently, Zhang expressed his hope that they would research and offer suggestions on topics including social management and governance by law since many of their members are specialists in the social and legal fields.