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Special> 11th NPC & CPPCC 2008> Latest Update
UPDATED: March 11, 2008  
Chinese Female Tycoon Triggers Controversy With "Pro-rich" Proposals
Zhang Yin, the "empress of paper" once ranked as China's richest woman, has set off heated debate at the annual full session of the national political advisory body with three "pro-rich" proposals

Zhang Yin, the "empress of paper" once ranked as China's richest woman, has set off heated debate at the annual full session of the national political advisory body with three "pro-rich" proposals.

Some members of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the top political advisory body, have criticized what they call her biased proposals at the session, which runs from March 3-14.

One of the proposals from Zhang, who is also a CPPCC National Committee member, is to amend the Labor Contract Law, which was put into effect on Jan. 1 this year, to exempt labor-intensive companies from signing permanent contracts with staff having more than 10 years' service.

Her second idea is for the personal income tax rate on those earning more than 100,000 yuan (about 14,000 U.S. dollars) a month to be cut from 45 percent to 30 percent.

And third, she suggested that the government lift the duty levied on imported environmental remediation facilities for five to seven years.

"She is speaking for herself and people like her," said Shi Dingguo, a political advisor and former deputy head of the school of humanities of the Beijing Language and Culture University.

"She is rich, running a labor-intensive, polluting business that needs to import environmental remediation facilities," Shi said.

Zhang, 51, is the founder and board chairwoman of one of the world's biggest paper makers, Nine Dragons Paper Industries. She was named by the annual Hurun Report as China's richest woman in 2006, with a fortune estimated at 27 billion yuan.

"She should not do this," Shi said. "Being a CPPCC National Committee member, she should speak not only for herself but also for the public."

However, Zhang Yichen, another advisor and chief executive officer of the CITIC Capital, said it was understandable that a CPPCC National Committee member would raise proposals on familiar topics. "Of course, it's a question whether she speaks for herself for the whole industry," he said.

CPPCC member Jing Tiankui agreed that a political advisor should bear a stronger sense of social responsibility. But Jing also noted that it was good for Zhang to step up, speak out and get feedback. "It means the session is opener and more tolerant."

Ge Jianping, an advisor from the business circle, said that he agreed with Zhang on an amendment to the Labor Contract Law. "Companies do feel pressure after the law was put into force. Many talked about this at the meetings."

As a green hand at the session, Ge was comfortable with its ambience. "People talk frankly and get into heated discussions at panel meetings, even when officials from the State Council join us."

"First of all, you have to tell the truth to fulfill the duty of a political advisor," said Li Dongyu, an advisor from northwestern Shaanxi Province.

Confrontation has been common at China's annual full sessions of the top legislature and political advisory body.

On Saturday, two political advisors addressed the plenary meeting, one from the trade union sector and the other from the industry and commerce circle.

Zhang Mingqi, deputy president of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, upheld the Labor Contract Law and denied that it would increase costs for law-abiding employers.

However, Song Beishan, deputy chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, called for fostering small and mid-sized enterprises and trying not to deter them from hiring people while protecting employees' rights.

In contrast with traditional bureaucrats who speak in a roundabout way, aggressive lawmakers and political advisors are winning public applause.

"It is necessary and justified to debate about a tiny thing only if it matters to public interests," the People's Daily said in an editorial.

Famed economist Li Yining has been a political advisor for more than 20 years. His take on the matter? "I have witnessed improving performances by legislators and political advisors. I've seen how heated the discussion is among advisors from business circles."

(Xinhua News Agency March 9, 2008)

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