Stopping environmental crime requires collective action: Report




China’s fight against environmental crime has reached a critical juncture, with judicial authorities seeing an increase in the number of cases over the past five years, according to an official report.

On Saturday, the State Council, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate each delivered a special report on ecology and environmental protection to the ongoing 6th session of the Standing Committee of the 14th National People’s Congress, China’s highest legislative body. Submitted to the meeting for review.

The report revealed that structural and fundamental pressures on the ecological environment and resource protection have not yet been alleviated. China continues to face challenges due to severe resource pressure, limited environmental capacity, and ecological fragility.

Ecological and resource crimes take many forms, include both traditional and emerging practices, and range from online to offline activities. According to the report, criminals involved in these activities demonstrate a high level of skill and professionalism.

The report highlighted differences in the understanding and practice of standards of evidence, investigations and evaluations, and the application of norms between judicial and administrative authorities. These differences have led to problems such as fines being replaced with fines and administrative authorities not transferring criminal cases to judicial authorities. This situation hinders the legal punishment and prevention of crimes related to the destruction of the environment and natural resources.

According to the report, the development of information sharing platforms for coordinating administrative and judicial measures is uneven, and the number of ecological environment and resource damage assessment and evaluation institutions is limited.

According to the SPP report, incidents related to the environment and resources are on the rise.

Prosecutors across the country handled 78,000 suspects last year, an increase of 34.9% compared to 2018. The main types of crimes include illegal fishing, logging, mining, hunting, occupation of agricultural land, and pollution.

The amount of public interest damages in the field of ecological environment and resource protection is also on the rise, and the number of environment-related public interest litigation cases handled last year accounted for 51.6% of all public interest cases.

The Ministry of Public Security, SPC, and SPP pledged to improve the professional capabilities of their personnel and establish a special unit to handle cases related to ecological environment and resource protection.

They emphasized initiating early warning, parallel investigations, and source control measures. It also called for stronger collaboration between criminal and administrative investigations, greater sharing of information and leads, and stronger interdepartmental cooperation in handling environmental cases, and advocated a comprehensive governance approach.

They suggested that the NPC Standing Committee improve the legal system for ecological environment and resource protection, and strengthen the legislative research on public interest litigation to strengthen the legal basis and foundation of the system.

Liu Zhongmei of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress said that China has gradually developed a unique judicial path regarding ecological environment and resource protection. Ecological and environmental justice systems are mature in nature and create collaborative and diverse dispute resolution frameworks.

China’s judicial achievements in environmental protection have been widely praised by the international community. The United Nations Environment Program has set up a section on China’s environmental courts on its website, primarily featuring annual reports on China’s environmental and resource courts and case law published by the SPC, and highlighting China’s solutions to international environmental governance. and provides judicial reference materials.

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