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Document unifies action on sea sand mining

By Yang Zekun | | Updated: 2023-06-08 21:55
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The Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the China Coast Guard issued a document unifying legal standards and supporting crackdown on the illegal mining of sea sand on Thursday, also the 15th United Nations World Oceans Day.

The document's provisions include the application of charges, how to determine intention and the required treatment after sand mining.

Wan Chun, a senior SPP prosecutor, said illegal activities related to sea sand have occurred frequently in recent years, threatening the safety of the marine environment and maritime navigation and breeding criminal organizations.

Since 2018, procuratorates have prosecuted 2,100 people in about 800 cases of illegal mining of sea sand. The cases cover 11 coastal provincial regions, according to the SPP.

However, since these activities are often disbursed over a wide area and involve a complex criminal chain, law enforcement and the judiciary have encountered many problems in the application of the law, which has restricted the handling of cases, he said.

In July 2022 and February 2023, the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the China Coast Guard held symposiums in Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan and Zhejiang provinces to analyze criminal cases related to sea sand, exchange experiences and formulate the document.

Because evidence of illegal sand mining is easy to eliminate at sea, the document states if the owner or captain of a ship transporting the sand obviously violates the normal modes of navigation or displays abnormal behavior that cannot be reasonably explained, the captain can be found to have criminal intent, Wan said.

The document also made provisions for the application of the law on the transportation and purchase of illegally mined sand, selling sand on behalf of illegal sand miners or using other means to conceal stolen sand and subsequent income. The charges involved are illegal mining and covering up and concealing illegally obtained proceeds.

On May 20, the SPP, the Ministry of Public Security and the China Coast Guard launched a six-month special operation targeting mining violations.

At presenr, procuratorates have set up 191 centers at all levels of the coast guard for investigation supervision and cooperation covering all coastal provinces, effectively solving the difficulties of law enforcement practice at the grassroots level, Wan said.

Liu Dejun, spokesman for CCG, said the coast guard has comprehensively strengthened the patrol and control of waters near abundant sand sources and important shipping routes, and intensified inspection of ships to prevent illegal mining and transportation activities to the maximum extent.

"At present, the general situation of illegal sea sand mining and transportation at sea is stable and controllable, but affected by factors such as demand, illegal mining and transportation activities still occur sometimes," Liu said.

Coast guard departments will tighten cooperation with other departments and oversight over the whole process of projects such as sea sand mining, port construction and waterway dredging and strengthen information sharing to form the synergy to combat such crimes, he said.

Since 2019, coast guard departments have taken action on more than 2,300 sand-related cases, detained more than 2,300 people, imposed administrative penalties on more than 900 people, and seized more than 12 million tons of sea sand.

In one case released by SPP from September 2019, a man surnamed Lin instructed a man to drive a ship to illegally mine sea sand in the waters around Ningde, Fujian province, and transport the sand to sell to others in Ningde. They mined about 11,300 cubic meters and gained about 167,000 yuan ($23,400).

The two were captured in October 2019 by coast guard officers and transferred for prosecution in January 2020. Lin was sentenced to one year and three months' imprisonment with probation of two years, and fined 20,000 yuan over illegal mining in 2021. The other man was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment with probation of two years, and fined 15,000 yuan.

The two were also ordered to jointly compensate about 680,200 yuan for the cost of repairing the damage to the marine environment. They are allowed to pay the restitution via the paying cash, buying marine carbon sinks in installments and engaging in public services.

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