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Supporters say law would protect rights and help unify standards
Lawmakers have called for legislation to compensate victims of crimes and help them recover from trauma.
Lin Fan, deputy to the National People's Congress, said on the sidelines of the top legislature's annual session, which concluded on Wednesday, that the assistance to crime victims should be promoted because of its significance in averting social conflicts and protecting victims' rights.
Lin submitted a motion along with 30 other deputies, calling for a social relief law to improve aid to crime victims.
"China has tested such relief services for years and accumulated some experience, and a nationwide relief system with unified standards and procedures is sorely needed," he said.
Yao Juquan, president of the Henan-based Hebi Daily and an NPC deputy, endorsed Lin's motion, and said the criminal code and criminal procedure code focus more on protecting defendants, but assistance for victims has been somehow neglected.
"Criminal offenses can leave the victims and their families in poverty and despair, even after the offender is convicted. The helplessness can lead to petitioning, resentment and revenge," Yao said in a suggestion she handed to the top legislature.
In 2008, the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office sought public opinion on draft legislation that would promote social assistance to the vulnerable, including crime victims. But the proposal has not been submitted to the legislature for review.
Prosecutors, the main source of aid to crime victims, have given about 84.5 million yuan ($13.4 million) to 11,236 victims and their families since 2010, according to Procuratorial Daily.
Experts say a critical issue to be clarified in the law is who is responsible for paying the relief money.
Zhou Feng, president of a criminal tribunal of the Supreme People's Court, said government spending on helping crime victims is still relatively small.
"The lack of a national stipulation and local relief programs has left many victims without compensation," said Liu Renwen, a criminal-law expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"Under the current circumstances, whether the victims can receive relief money depends on local governments' will and fiscal revenues," he said. The draft law should clarify that the central government has to allocate part of its annual income to fund local governments to assist the victims, Liu said, especially in poor areas.
In 2011, courts at all levels across the nation heard 840,000 criminal cases, not including appeals. That number is higher than the number of people who could have received assistance from the prosecutors that year.
Tang Hongxin, a criminal lawyer in Beijing, said enacting a national law on relieving crime victims could help promote social stability and harmony, because sometimes the compensation ruled by court simply became a nominal one, since "the defendants don't have the money to pay it".
"The government should be the main supplier, and the rest could come from charities, businesses, individuals and foundations," Lin said.
"But the spending may be too substantial for the country to afford, and even if it could, it would hardly be enough for victims to recover their actual losses," said Hong Daode, a professor with China University of Political Science and Law.
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