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Abbot Lawmaker Has Faith in NPC Process
   2016-03-15 21:26:30    Xinhua      Web Editor: Mao Yaqing

Buddhist abbot Mingsheng is pretty far from the monk stereotype of a passive hermit. As one of the nearly 3,000 lawmakers that make up the National People's Congress (NPC), he plays a leading role in public life.

Eight years ago, Mingsheng was among a group of NPC deputies who proposed China's first charity law. On Wednesday, the legislature will vote on whether to enact the regulation, with many Chinese hoping it can build confidence in charities and lead to a wave of donations.

The drafting of such an important bill is made possible by the hard work of NPC deputies, who are selected from diverse backgrounds to represent the entire population by way of gathering public opinions.

Mingsheng, abbot of Guangxiao Temple in Guangzhou and vice president of the Buddhist Association of China, is one of a small but significant number of religious figures among the deputies.

He spent Tuesday reviewing the bill at a hotel near the Tiananmen Square.

"Charities can help reduce poverty and to some extent narrow the wealth gap," he said, sitting on a couch in his small room fragrant from burning incense. "This is in line with Buddhist tenets on benevolence."

The slightly chubby monk's apricot robe rustled as he talked, frequently pausing to scratch his shaved head and smile.

This is the fourth year of Mingsheng's third five-year term as an NPC deputy. Since he was elected to the post 14 years ago, he has tabled at least one proposal at each annual session. Their subjects have ranged from poverty alleviation to environmental protection.

"I collect opinions from a great number of visitors to my temple. I also conduct survey tours together with other deputies," Mingsheng said.

That process has informed him of making telling proposals for revisions to draft laws. For example, the charity bill stipulated that donors would be obliged to make good on their pledges. During deliberations at the NPC session, Mingsheng suggested donors should be exempted from this clause if their financial situation seriously got worse.

"The NPC Law Committee has taken our suggestions and revised the draft before Wednesday's vote," according to the monk.

Religious leaders play a unique and irreplaceable role within the NPC. Buddhism helps Mingsheng have a perspective that is not possible for ordinary people, he believes.

"In a rapidly transforming society, many people suffer stress. Their hearts are burdened by desires and anxieties. Religion helps you unwind."

While Mingsheng's NPC brief is to draft laws, his work as an abbot concerns bringing about social good, reducing occasions in which people have to resort to the courts.

"I am both a monk and a lawmaker. Sometimes, my identity lets me defuse tensions before or after a trial," he said.

"We must serve the interests of the public in the light of Buddha's teachings," the abbot said.

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