China considers changes to public interest litigation rules

BEIJING -China has drafted amendments to the administrative and civil procedure laws to allow prosecutors to institute public interest litigation.

The draft amendments were given a first reading at the bimonthly session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, which opened Thursday.

Prosecutors are to be allowed to file an administrative lawsuit for abuse of power or nonfeasance in cases concerning protection of environment and resources, food and drug safety, preservation of state assets, and transfer of state-owned land use rights, according to the draft.

They may also file civil lawsuits against any act that compromises public rights and interest in cases related to protection of environment and resources, as well as food and drug safety.

These areas have a direct bearing on national and public interest, said procurator-general Cao Jianming while explaining the draft amendments to lawmakers.

The draft amendment to the Administrative Procedure Law stipulates that prosecutors should make suggestions to government departments and push them to fulfil duties before taking them to court.

In July 2015, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate began a two-year pilot program allowing prosecutors in 13 provincial divisions to institute public interest litigation in administrative and civil cases.

By the end of May 2017, procuratorates had handled 7,886 public interest lawsuits and filed 934 cases in the pilot reform.

In 4,358 cases, administrative departments took the initiative to correct the wrongdoings. In all the cases that eventually went to the court, judges have ruled in 222 cases, all in favor of the prosecutors.

Prosecutors in the pilot areas helped restore 128,000 hectares of arable lands, forests, wetlands and grasslands, urging more than 1,400 companies to rectify their behavior, and retrieved state assets worth 6.5 billion yuan (950 million U.S. dollars) in the past two years.