Kent Ewing is a teacher and writer at Hong Kong International School. He wrote the following essay in the Asia Times:
A stubborn group of fish farmers in eastern China’s Zhejiang province has struck a blow for both the environment and rule of law in the country, leaving analysts to speculate on the promising long-term implications of their case.
The 82 farmers, who have been fighting for years to have authorities investigate the pollution of their fish ponds by the 2,000 factories operating in the municipality of Wenzhou, last week won a landmark ruling against provincial police in a local court. The farmers allege that between 2003 and 2004, pollution from factories in the Wenzhou industrial zone caused 170 million yuan (nearly US$21.8 million) in damages to more than 367 hectares of fish ponds.
The Shangchen District Court in Hangzhou ordered Zhejiang police authorities to determine why the Wenzhou Public Security Bureau did not act on the farmers’ complaints. While the ultimate resolution of the case is unknown, it has already made Chinese legal history in that a local court has ruled against a provincial authority. China’s big problem with implementing reform -environmental and otherwise – has been that local and provincial officials have often acted in cahoots to subvert central-government edicts that they did not perceive to be in their economic interests. [Full Text]