Chinese courts have stepped up their efforts in cracking down on environmental crimes over the past decade, increasing fines and jail terms for polluters to safeguard national ecological security.
Over the past 10 years, courts across the country have concluded some 244,000 environmentally-related criminal cases, including those involving forests, lands and wildlife, and convicted more than 303,000 people, according to statistics released by the Supreme People’s Court, China’s highest court. court, Tuesday.
In one case, for example, the Changzhi Intermediate People’s Court in Shanxi Province recently ordered a local energy investment company to pay a 3 billion yuan ($428 million) fine for mining which damaged some 6 million metric tons of coal resources worth 4.2 billion yuan, and sentenced its current controller surnamed Chen to six years in prison plus a fine of 10 million yuan for the crime .
The Intermediate Court also found that Chen demanded that the company’s branches privately enter other stakeholders’ areas to mine coal, then used the money from coal sales to fund organized crime in early 2015. to July 2018. In combination, Chen was sentenced to death suspended for two years, with all his property confiscated.
“It was a typical case that combined an environmental crime with a gang-related offence,” said Li Mingyi, deputy chief judge of the environment and resources trial court. “Such behavior must be absolutely suppressed and severely punished.”
Considering the amount of illegal mining to be “extremely large”, he noted that it was reasonable and essential to increase the fines to create greater deterrence for the offender.
Thanks to China’s judiciary’s greater attention to the fight against polluters, the country’s environment and ecology have improved since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012.
“We have applied the strictest laws, regulations, guidelines and measures to strengthen environmental protection,” said Liu Zhumei, chief judge of the trial court.
While heavily punishing those who dump sewage and dump hazardous substances into river basins, the country’s courts have also focused on handling cases involving wild animals to protect biosecurity, she said.
The Supreme Court has issued 21 judicial interpretations regarding ecology and the environment over the past decade, including those on punitive damages and public interest litigation, in an effort to help judges improve the efficiency and accuracy of handling relevant cases, according to Mr. Liu.
A total of 2,426 panels specializing in handling environmental cases have been set up across the country, she added.
Statistics from the top court also showed on Tuesday that Chinese courts concluded 1.38 million civil lawsuits involving the environment over the past 10 years, as well as 343,000 cases against ministries that failed to properly fulfill their duties to ensure the protection of the environment.