Legal redress for victims of mental trauma

By Xie Chuanjiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-05-07 07:06

Compensation for mental trauma will be enshrined in law early next year when the country's top legislature completes its amendment to the decades-old State Compensation Law, a top judge has said.

The legislation is expected to prompt more plaintiffs emotionally harmed by government departments to sue for compensation.

The proposed draft amendment will be tabled for discussion by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in October.

Jiang Bixin, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, said State compensation for those adversely affected by government organizations or officers would be a major part of the amendment after the number of claims increased dramatically in recent years.

Based on years of trial experience and opinions solicited from courts around the country, the Supreme People's Court has proposed a draft amendment to the 1994 law, Jiang said in an interview with China Daily.

"The amendment is likely to be adopted early next year," he said.

The Supreme People's Procuratorate and Ministry of Finance have also been consigned the amendment and will be involved in future implementation.

China issued the Administrative Procedure Law in 1989, allowing citizens to sue government departments.

The 1994 State Compensation Law went further to stipulate citizens should be compensated once infringed by government agencies or their officers.

For years, legal experts have argued that the present law on state compensation is in need of revision or amending in order to cater for increasingly complicated scenarios.

Ying Songnian, a renowned administrative law expert and one of the core drafters of the State Compensation Law, said comparatively low compensation standards and the failure to cover mental anguish were two of the most glaring shortcomings which reduced its practicality and undermined its authority.

Loopholes were brought to light during recent widely reported cases and triggered heated debate.

In a typical case, Ma Dandan, a 19-year-old girl from northern China's Shanxi province, was wrongly detained by local police for almost three days because of alleged "prostitution" in 2001.

Though Ma asked for compensation of 5 million yuan, she was awarded just 74 yuan ($10.6) for salary compensation and nothing for other damages to her reputation and mental state.

"The absence of compensation for spiritual harm is a big shortcoming of the law," Ying told China Daily. "Though money can never really heal the mental woes done to the victims."

The harm done by government departments is often much graver than that responsible for civil lawsuits, as individuals tend to be vulnerable in the face of authority, Ying said.

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