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2 Nov, 2014

China amends law to support citizens suing government

BEIJING, Nov. 1, (Xinhua) — China’s top legislature adopted an amendment to the Administrative Procedure Law Saturday, aiming to expand the people’s right to sue the government.

Members of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) passed the amendment through a vote at the close of the week-long, bi-monthly legislative session, saying it is in line with the reality of administrative litigation and makes it easier for citizens to take the government to court.

Courts will launch administrative proceedings if the government is sued for violating agreements on land and housing compensation and commercial operations franchised by the government, according to the amendment, which was deliberated on three times by national legislators.

The amendment says the courts should order authorities to follow contracts or give compensation for the breach if they are confirmed to have violated a contract.

Even if authorities have legitimate reasons to terminate contracts, they should offer compensation, according to the revision, without detailing how to determine the amount of compensation.

The revision compels defendants — representatives of the administrations concerned — to personally appear before the court. Those who refuse to appear without legitimate reasons or leave the court during the trial without approval may face additional punishment. Currently most defendants ask their lawyers or other staff to represent them in court.

“Having them appear in court will also effectively promote the officials’ awareness of the rule of law,” said Prof. Jiang Ming’an of the Peking University.

Participants in lawsuits, including government staff, will be fined or detained if they “force” a plaintiff to withdraw the suit through illegal means such as threats or fraud, it says.

The revision also adds stipulations that more rights infringement cases are to be accepted by courts and actionable cases will no longer be confined to “specific administrative acts” — in practice, an excuse for courts to throw out cases.

According to a survey by Xiu Fujin, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, only 35.19 percent of cases filed against government agencies were accepted by courts in 2012.

Jiang Ming’an, professor of the Peking University, advised further easing of restrictions for such lawsuits.

The 1990 Administrative Procedure Law is a major guarantee for the citizens’ right to pursue the government through the courts. Lawmakers said the amendment would provide a more solid legal foundation for administrative and judicial reform.

Bai Zhijian, an NPC Standing Committee member, said the revised law would better protect the rights and interests of citizens and other organizations and ensure administration by law.

Because using administrative power in accordance with law is a key requirement in rule of law, the amendment, which streamlines administrative litigation procedures, is also expected to promote it, Jiang said.

The revised law will take effect on May 1, 2015.