News >China

City officials to find court rulings on work records

2011-03-02 22:20

WENZHOU, Zhejiang - Incompetent Chinese officials will no longer be able to hide behind their administration's skirts when sued by citizens for bureaucratic wrongdoings.

That is the signal sent by a wealthy east China city, which has meted out punishments to 12 officials, after abuses of power ended in their departments or bureaus losing court cases.

Wenzhou, the precedent-setting city in Zhejiang province, has vowed to address increasing complaints and lawsuits against the government caused by administrative malpractice.

The pledge started with warnings within the local Communist Party of China and "demerits" for the 12 officials on Feb 22, including four bureau heads, an act that was said to hold the officials accountable for their own mistakes.

"We aim to break the deep-rooted belief that individual officials can go unpunished after messing up, while their departments pay the price, in money and reputation," said local Party discipline inspector Xu Rongsheng.

In one circular, three officials were penalized after being defeated in a court case over illegal land use.

The three officials in charge of construction and land resources reportedly turned a blind eye to an unlicensed apartment construction project on a piece of arable land in Yaru Village.

The building blocked the light of neighbors, who in 2008 collectively sued the city planning bureau for dereliction of duty.

The administrative penalty of a demerit followed the unfavorable court ruling, which found the officials had caused a "negative social impact" and incurred demolition costs for the government.

Though so far only adopted by Wenzhou, the policy has been praised for setting a precedent for other Chinese cities that are scrambling to restore public confidence.

"The new policy will press officials to be more responsible while forcing them to respond more actively to public complaints," said Sun Xiaoxia, professor of law at the Shanghai-based Fudan University.

The city of Wenzhou, famous for its free-market entrepreneurship, has often made national headlines with its spearhead role in China's legal reforms in administrative lawsuits.

This bustling port city for small commodities heard the country's first "citizen versus government" lawsuit in 1988.

Its 1,923 administrative lawsuits in 2008 and 2009 were a record for a Chinese city. About 40 percent of rulings went against the government.

The city also set a legal precedent in 2005 by forbidding department heads from failing to appear at major court cases, in a drive to bring government defendants closer to public complainants.

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