Judge: Environmental cases 'not easy'
Updated: 2014-07-25 07:20
By Cao Yin (China Daily)
Chinese courts have set up tribunals to focus on environmental disputes, but many challenges remain, an official of the country's top court said.
The country's top legislature passed the Environmental Protection Law in April. Two months later, the Supreme People's Court established a department to handle cases related to the environment and resources.
Since 2007, 143 special courts or collegiate benches have also been formed as part of a pilot program to hear environmental cases.
"It's good to see that we have done something to protect our environment in the legal sphere, but these are far from enough," said Zheng Xuelin, chief judge of the top court's new department.
"Dealing with environmental cases is not an easy job," Zheng added.
The number of environmental cases that Chinese courts heard in the past three years averaged fewer than 30,000 a year, which is inconsistent with the country's growing number of complaints about pollution and increasingly serious ecological damage, Zheng said.
It can also be difficult to file an environmental case, because the current Civil Procedure Law stipulates that only government agencies and related organizations can initiate public-interest litigation, Zheng said. Additionally, intervention from local administrations poses a challenge, he said.
On April 14, Lanzhou Intermediate People's Court in Gansu province refused a lawsuit involving five residents who claimed they had been damaged by local sources of polluted water. The suit was rejected on grounds that the residents' attempt to lodge the public-interest lawsuit was not in line with procedural law.
The revised Environmental Protection Law, effective next January, states that registered social organizations with more than five years' experience in environmental activities and without any record of illegal activity can carry out public-interest lawsuits, which Zheng considers to be clearer.
However, he confirmed that about 300 organizations now are qualified, saying that the top court will issue judicial interpretation on public-interest litigation as soon as possible, with the aim of making the channel for filing an environmental case much clearer.
(China Daily 07/25/2014 page4)