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Expanded role for dispute mediation

Updated: 2013-11-30 13:57
By Zheng Jinran in Shijiazhuang ( China Daily)

Mediation will be expanded in Hebei province to settle a wider range of professional and industrial disputes and avoid court battles, the head of the province's justice department said.

Since 2009, more than 1.46 million disputes in Hebei have been settled through mediation.

Of the 58,607 people's mediation committees in the province, 732 are targeted to one profession or industry.

That is not enough, according to Mu Sishan, director of the Department of Justice in Hebei.

Mu said the province will move to broaden its coverage and said all counties should set up their own mediation teams for major industries by the end of June 2014.

People's mediation committees in medical care and traffic will be the top priorities and should cover all counties by March, Mu said.

"We have gained wider experience in dealing with patient-hospital disputes since we set up several committees years ago," Mu said, adding that independent teams working out of health and justice departments are able to avoid interference because they do not receive any financing from those entities.

Qinhuangdao and the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang have taken the lead in setting up a strict mediation process for settling disputes - from accepting a case initially to conducting the mediation itself and finally ending with the signing of an agreement, Mu said.

The process frequently results in amicable acceptance by both sides and avoids the trouble and expense of going to court, Mu said.

"Reforms are deepening in the country in many fields, bringing significant changes to social relations and raising some new conflicts," Mu said. "So we need to keep pace with changes."

The recent blueprint for reforms released after the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee has pointed to many improvements in the justice system.

"We have updated our mediation regulations for traditional fields and also to achieve settlements in professional and industrial disputes," he said, adding that new parameters will be released by the end of November.

When dealing with traditional disputes, such as those involving marriage or community, the people's mediation committees will expand their efforts.

Categories of professional and industry disputes include medical services, land requisition, demolition, environmental protection and traffic.

In medical cases, "It may take us a month to solve a dispute, bearing the scolds and misunderstandings from the patients," said Cao Canghu, a member of the people's mediation committee in Shijiazhuang.

But the mediation committees have access to experts in law and medicine, as well as having an experienced mediator, which helps ensure that the case is handled professionally.

"We have set up an expert database with more than 200 doctors in every medical subject," he said.

Sometimes mediations break down and the parties do not agree to settle. In that case, the matter goes to court. But judges may also benefit from the pattern established by the mediation committees.

For example, the Beijing Haidian District People's Court in November established an expert team for medical disputes, hoping that judges would benefit from the advice of professionals.

On Nov 25, the court heard a case in which a resident surnamed Wang sued a hospital, claiming that doctors used medicines improperly and caused him facial paralysis. Wang asked for more than 2.3 million yuan in compensation.

The hospital disagreed with the medical appraisal provided by the plaintiff, and judges could not provide their own objective conclusion.

So the court invited three medical specialists to discuss the matter. In the process, the court acquired the relevant medical knowledge necessary to make a decision.

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