Chinese authorities are considering rule changes to make it easier for citizens to challenge government authorities in courts over disputes such as land confiscation, Beijing's latest attempt to diffuse social tensions by refining the legal system.
A subgroup of China's legislature began considering draft amendments that would strengthen a law governing how ordinary citizens can appeal government decisions by opening new channels for them to sue official bodies, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday. The agency said the amendment, if adopted, would be the first adjustment in the Administrative Procedure Law since its 1990 adoption.
Citizens find it difficult to challenge official actions in courts, which often refuse to accept cases or enforce judgments, and as a result, people have turned to petitioning the government for redress, according to Xin Chunying, deputy director of a legislative affairs commission for the National People's Congress. Quoted by Xinhua, Ms. Xin said compelling courts to accept and try more cases should reduce public petitioning.
Though the rule change would allow people to challenge government decisions on various fronts, officials indicated one main goal is to address calls in rural China for a say in land reallocation. In November, China's Communist Party vowed to pursue 'uniform' land rights nationwide, a pledge analysts said referred to making just compensation for land seized in rural areas.
Shaky legal grounds governing both the use and transfer of land--and property's soaring value--make control of real estate a particular source of tension in China. In recent years, reports in China have estimated the number of large protests annually at about 180,000. The Legal Daily newspaper in January reported almost a quarter of them were a direct result of land disputes, with others related to the environment.
Avenues to challenge official action in China are few; courts routinely reject such cases. In a survey of plaintiffs whose cases actually were accepted, 60% said they never received feedback, Xinhua said in its report about the draft rule change.
Zhang Dong, a lawyer in Beijing with Jiulong Law Firm who often handles land-dispute cases, said language in the draft rule is potentially important because it would put more onus on courts to accept cases. 'But like other laws in this country, what really matters is whether or not it can be implemented as required,' Mr. Zhang said.
With a court system seen as unresponsive, several million people annually take their grievances to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, a much-maligned Communist Party-run institution that receives petitions and is rooted in imperial China. Petitioners rarely succeed in their claims and sometimes end up jailed, academics say.
In recent months, Beijing has said it is trying to modernize the petitioning system, including by allowing appeals online. A top bureau official was recently removed on allegations of corruption.
James T. Areddy
由 於中國涉及土地使用和轉讓的法律不完善，加上房地產價格飛漲，使得圍繞土地和房產控制權的爭奪成為中國引發衝突的一大導火索。最近幾年，據國內報告估計， 中國每年大約發生18萬起大規模抗議活動。據《法制日報》1月份報導，這些抗議活動有近四分之一是徵地衝突直接引起的，其他抗議活動則與環境問題有關。
Jiulong Law Firm駐北京的律師張東（音譯）表示，修正案草案的措辭可能很重要，因為它將加大法院受理相關案件力度；但與中國其他法律一樣，真正重要的是相關法律能否按照規定得到執行。
James T. Areddy