Legal changes mark millennium
Several new laws, regulations and circulars came into effect yesterday to mark what Beijing celebrated as the start of the millennium.
The most significant were two circulars - one issued by the State Planning and Development Commission on telecoms charges, and the other by the State Council on developing the country's western frontier.
The State Planning and Development Commission's circular slashed charges for international phone calls, leased lines and the Internet by as much as half.
'The magnitude and scope of the current charges adjustment is the biggest since the founding of the People's Republic,' Xinhua said.
'So, who will benefit most from these changes? It will be the users in villages and Internet surfers.'
Coming into effect yesterday was another set of rules set by the State Council last week on its 'go west' programme.
The programme, which has been compared to the conquest of the American West, encompasses more than half of China's territory. It covers remote areas like Xinjiang and Tibet and extends to southern provinces like Yunnan.
Beijing announced the programme two years ago. However, foreign investors and observers have complained that although top leaders have repeatedly pledged their commitment, few concrete measures had been announced.
The circular issued by the State Council mapped out details on a wide range of measures, from land leases to tax breaks for capital investment.
Also coming into effect was the new Customs Law. Xinhua said the legislation would enable China's Customs officers to follow 'international practices' in carrying out their duties.
Customs has been plagued by scandals in the past two years. Although dozens of senior officers have been arrested and tried, investigators have not been able to conclude investigations into several major cases.
Xinhua said it was hoped that the new Customs Law could provide a powerful weapon in cleaning up the law enforcement agency.