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China lowers threshold for environmental crimes

06-19-2013 09:20 BJT

China has taken measures to toughen up on pollution crimes. The Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate have jointly issued a judicial interpretation, which lowers the criteria to define related crimes.

The polluters can expect tough punishments.

China’s new judicial interpretation has lowered standards to define acts that "seriously damage the environment", which can lead to convictions for "environmental pollution crimes".

Hu Yunteng, research director of Supreme People’s Court of China, said, "First we lowered the conviction standards. In the past, a conviction could be made when an act caused one death. Now if it causes one person to be seriously injured, the conviction can be made. And if a case causes 30 people to be poisoned, it also now constitutes a crime. We also added new standards for convictions on the basis of certain polluting behaviors."

A pollution crime, according to the country’s Criminal Law, can lead to no more than three years of imprisonment and a fine. And for exceptionally serious cases, between three to seven years in prison and a fine.

There have been many serious environmental pollution cases in China, some notorious.

In July 2010, Zijin Mining Group Co., China’s largest gold producer, was blamed for an acid leak in a copper plant that killed tons of fish in east China’s Fujian Province.

In January last year, cadmium pollution in a river in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region was traced to a plant belonging to Guangxi Jinhe Mining Co, Ltd. Cadmium levels in the river were 80 times the legal limit. The pollution affected the drinking water of 1.5 million residents.

Hu Yunteng said, "We didn’t hand out many punishments in the past for a number of reasons. There aren’t always specific victims, which makes it hard to obtain evidence. The crimes are also related to economic development. And the conviction standards were not specific. According to statistics, only 20 to 30 such cases were handled every year. But with the new interpretation, and with the public’s growing environmental awareness, I believe more cases will be handled."

Rampant environmental pollution incidents in China have provoked outcries from the public, academics and activists. By imposing tougher punishments, the authorities are showing their determination to tackle the problem. Though not an ultimate solution, these new legal interpretations may at least deter potential offenders.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source:

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