China's Constitution states that all citizens are equal before the law, but personal injury compensation standards tell a different story.
National legislator Zhang Peiyang has drawn up a motion detailing the inequity of current compensation payments especially between rural and urban residents.
"I've proposed the National People's Congress makes a law on personal injury compensation," Zhang said yesterday while attending the annual session of the country's top legislature in Beijing.
"The purpose is to remove the often wide gap of compensation standards for injuries to people of different households or occupations."
In one case, the family of a farmer, surnamed Li, who was killed in a traffic accident last year in East China's Anhui Province, was compensated 52,000 yuan ($6,667). The amount was based on a Supreme People's Court (SPC) law interpretation that death payments be 20 times the average annual per capita net income of rural residents.
But had Li held an urban resident's permit, his family would have been able to claim at least three times more.
In a more dramatic case, heated national debate was sparked after the family of a rural woman killed in a traffic mishap in Chongqing, Southwest China in 2005, was paid less than the families of the two urban residents killed in the same accident.
"The Constitution states that all citizens are equal before the law, but the discriminatory compensation standards denote the victims are in fact not equal," Zhang said.
In his motion submitted to the top legislature, Zhang asked the National People's Congress to make a law mandating a unified compensation standard to be applied to personal injury cases regardless of social factors.
When someone liable is unable to pay compensation the State must close the gap and pay victims, Zhang said.
Zhou Yuzhong, a lawyer with Junzhijie Law Firm in Guangzhou, said a separate bill giving equal treatment in personal injury cases could be a long way off.
A more realistic option was for the Supreme People's Court to "revise its interpretations", Zhou said.
Zhang Li, a national legislator from Chongqing, said the SPC had promised it would make some changes to its interpretation on the compensation of personal injury cases sometime this year, in response to an earlier request to bring payments into line.
Zhang also presented a motion to the top legislature, proposing the State Compensation Law be amended to better protect the rights of those who die or are injured while in custody.
There have been occasional reports that some people in detainment had sustained severe wounds or even died.
"The State Compensation Law should include a clause stating that if a citizen dies, goes missing or is injured when he or she was taken into official custody and lost personal freedom, the custodians should assume the responsibility of proving that they did not cause this," Zhang said.
"If the custodians could not provide evidence or could not be otherwise exempted from their responsibilities, they must pay compensation."
(China Daily 03/14/2007 page5)