Legal methods popularized among Chinese

Updated: 2014-10-17 15:20


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BEIJING - Farmer Song Xinyuan has earned himself a nationwide reputation after filing a lawsuit against his local environmental protection bureau.

As one of the many farmers across China planting crops, Song was left frustrated while planting his rapeseed this Spring.

"We used to have about seven mu (0.47 hectares) of farmland, but five mu was bought for industrial development," said Song, who's farm is located in a small village in East China's Anhui province. "We never expected the new petrochemical plant to pollute the underground water. This reduces crop output by over 30 percent. Crops often wither."

Even though the 52-year-old never finished high school, he's taken it upon himself to pursue legal action, searching countless legal materials and hiring a public lawyer in order to sue the provincial environmental protection bureau of Anhui for violating rules in approving the petrochemical plant.

He now possesses an intimate knowledge of China's Constitution and several other major laws.

"The Constitution has given so many rights that most ordinary people don't know. I was just using legal weapons to protect my own rights. I have nothing to be afraid of," Song said after his case aroused Chinese lawmaker's concerns about farmland protection.

It has been 60 years since the approval of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China in 1954. China has gradually improved from "rule of man" to "rule of law" during the past decades. And with the growing legal awareness and enhanced transparency, courts in China are receiving more cases than ever.

Like Song, more and more people in China are starting to understand the power of law.

Luo Kaihua, 51, lost his house in Shidi township in Sichuan province during the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. Later, his life hit bottom again after he was sold fake vegetable seeds.

Lacking legal knowledge, Luo decided to file a petition like many farmers before him.

The secretary of the party committee of Shidi township, Luo Yinjie, persuaded Luo and his fellow petitioners to protect their rights with legal means after consulting legal experts and searching similar cases.

"If they won the case and received compensation, in the future, people will adopt legal methods to solve similar problems," said the 32-year-old Luo Yinjie.

In September, a court in Southwest China's Chongqing municipality launched a legal service platform for local residents, which included a smartphone app called "Chongqing Court" that provides legal information for users.

Zheng Xiujun, a lawyer practicing law for more than 20 years, said instant messaging service Wechat has become one of the most popular channels to connect and hire lawyers.

The promotion of "rule of law" will be an important issue to be discussed at the fourth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee slated for Oct 20-23.

However, as people's awareness of the law grows, the concept of the Constitution is still quite vague for most of them.

According to Chinese middle school textbook, "The Constitution of the People's Republic of China is the fundamental law of the state and has supreme legal authority." Many people are familiar with the concept of the Constitution from the textbook, but don't understand the real meaning of it.

"To honor the Constitution, it's necessary to institutionalize people's rights and the methods to protect their rights," said Ma Huaide, vice president of China University of Political Science and Law.

In Zhengzhou city of Henan province, local citizen Zhou Xuecheng bought a print of the Constitution for his child, "I don't really understand it, but I know for sure it's really important," Zhou said.