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Courts fight to protect Yangtze River Basin

By YANG ZEKUN | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-15 09:13
A beach along a section of the Yangtze River in Yichang, Hubei province, is strewn with litter in this 2016 file photo. [Photo/sipa]

Thousands arrested or punished for damage to environmental resources

The procuratorial departments in 11 provinces and cities along the Yangtze River Economic Belt approved the arrest of 7,084 people in 4,336 cases suspected of destroying the environment of the Yangtze River Basin in 2019, said the Supreme People's Procuratorate on Tuesday.

They also prosecuted 22,310 people for polluting the environment, according to a white paper on ensuring the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt issued by the SPP.

Zhang Xueqiao, deputy head of the SPP, noted that procuratorial organs will continue to severely punish criminals who damage environmental resources of the Yangtze River Basin.

In one case released by the SPP, two groups of people illegally dredged more than 12 million metric tons of sand from the Yangtze River from May 2015 to May 2018.

An investigation found that the two groups had violated the provisions of the mineral resources law by mining without licenses. The prosecutor instituted a public prosecution, and on June 11 the convicted were given prison sentences ranging from three years and four months to three years and six months.

The procuratorial organs have fully utilized public-interest litigation in ecological and environmental protection and continue to focus on water and soil pollution as well as strengthening the protection of water resources and biodiversity, Zhang said.

In 2019, the procuratorial organs in the 11 provinces and cities along the Yangtze River Economic Belt initiated 30,212 public-interest lawsuits in the field of environmental resources and issued 24,448 procuratorial recommendations to urge competent departments of environmental resources to perform their duty before issuing the lawsuits.

The paper also noted that the procuratorial organs used judicial means to promote the ecological restoration and the transformation of production development. A total of 7,626 hectares of polluted or illegally occupied forest lands, farmlands, wetlands and grasslands had been repaired.

"Through issuing the annual white paper, we could have a timely and comprehensive review of the prosecution work on serving and ensuring the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt, and further investigate the problems in our work and improve our capacity and level of professional governance," Zhang said.

Apart from the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Supreme People's Court has urged courts across the country to continue to hand down harsher punishments to criminals who seriously damage the environment and ecology of the Yangtze River.

Courts along the Yangtze River Economic Belt have also established 488 special environmental resources divisions and collegial panels to explore ways to unify civil, commercial, administrative and criminal cases involving environmental resources under the jurisdiction of specialized judicial organs.

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