More citizens win cases against government
( 2003-12-16 09:34) (China Daily)
A growing number of Chinese citizens are turning to the courts to settle disputes with government agencies, and up to 75 per cent are winning their claims.
Mondayay, Supreme People's Court President Xiao Yang announced that from January to November, nearly 108,000 administrative lawsuits went before the courts. That was an increase of about 6 per cent over the previous year. Most cases involved public security, resource disputes, requisition of land, the resettlement of displaced people and an increasing amount of cases involving economic issues.
The increase in cases overall is significant because in the past, Chinese tended to be weary of official government institutions. And more citizens are winning their cases compared to the early 1990s when only 40 per cent of cases were successful.
"People used to be afraid of the government or were unwilling to sue the government," said lawyer Qiao Zhanxiang, who is best known for bringing a case against the Ministry of Railways in 2001 for raising railway ticket prices during the Spring Festival period.
"Others resorted to revenge or often went to extremes to seek justice," he said.
"But today, more and more people know that they have to turn towards the law to defend their legitimate rights and interests," said Qiao. Ultimately the lawyer lost the case against the ministry, but it resulted in a public hearing in 2002 on railway transportation reforms.
Yesterday, Qiao launched a court case, on behalf of a group of farmers in Jinzhou of Hebei Province, against local and provincial governments for their role in allegedly taking over 80 hectares of crop fields illegally from the group. According to law, only the State Council is authorized to seize land up to 35 hectares.
Despite these ground-breaking cases, local judges say some Chinese citizens are still reticent to turn to the law if their rights have been infringed by the government.
"They are fearful and also cannot afford the complicated procedures," said Jing Wei, a judge from the Supreme People's Court of Henan Province. Government officials involved in policing regulations urgently need to become more aware of the rights of citizens, said Qiao.
And in some regions, the situation is more pressing.
In Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou Province, the behaviour of government agencies is more satisfactory than in the western part of the country. In addition, people in other areas still lack the awareness to defend their rights.
China promulgated the Administrative Procedure law in 1991 which stipulates citizens can sue all levels of government.
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