Courts across the country will step up efforts to help local governments cope with an increasing number of mass incidents involving disputes over wages and management amid the economic downturn, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) said in a guideline released Monday.
"The courts will focus on dealing with a sharp increase in mass incidents especially in the mediation of demonstrations. If there is any trend seen in 'mass petitions', the courts should also work closely with local administrative departments," the document said.
Judicial departments should "establish an early warning mechanism" and direct their resources in line with law enforcement, the SPC said.
Courts will also closely monitor other major incidents that might affect social stability. In case of incidents that might result in violent conflicts, courts should inform local government departments in time to work out efficient solutions, it said.
Other measures include adopting caution in property seizures, detentions or freezing of assets, if affected enterprises are facing temporary financial strain.
The courts have also been urged to help beleaguered businesses tide over difficulties by mediating with their debtors.
"Similarly, the courts should cautiously apply enforcement measures for auction and liquidation in dealing with major production facilities of factory houses and equipment," it said.
In cases involving large- and medium-sized State-owned and State-holding enterprises, financial institutions and listed companies, the courts should voluntarily communicate with state assets management and supervision departments, to apply solutions that "avoid coercive measures leading to bankruptcy and social instability".
Yu Lingyu, director general of the SPC's enforcement bureau, said the global financial crisis had made a "huge impact" on the country's courts.
"The number of businesses going bankrupt continues to grow, leading to more disputes over salary claims and more cases involving vulnerable groups," Yu said.
Last year, 286,221 labor disputes were heard by the country's courts, a 93-percent rise on 2007, while the number stood at 98,568 cases in the first three months this year, a 59-percent year-on-year rise, SPC figures showed.
Liu Junhai, chief of the commercial law research institute of the Renmin University of China, said the latest measures "were necessary".
In Fujian and Guangdong provinces, recent disputes over such issues involved hundreds of workers dragging companies to court.
"It is very important to handle such cases carefully as some large enterprises have divisional companies across the country. Court decisions in one place might lead to mass incidents in other places," Liu told China Daily.
The professor said joint efforts between judicial departments and administrative governments do not hamper citizens' rights and interests, "and only help lead to win-win situations".
"The best solution is to help enterprises tide over their current difficulties so that workers will not lose jobs in the long-run," Liu said.
Su Haopeng, dean of the civil and commercial law department of the University of International Business and Economics, suggested that enterprises and governments shoulder more social responsibility, such as "injecting more investment" to cope with the current economic challenges.