Legal Struggles for a Cleaner Environment

Qin Xudong and Luo Jieqi of Caijing report on a landmark public interest environmental lawsuit. The lawsuit’s success has given inspiration to other groups, and may provide a model for the Chinese legal system.

The lot’s owner, the Qingzhen National Land Resources Bureau, leased land-use rights [of Baihua Lake] to a private company for 50 years. The parties agreed a cafeteria would be built within a year. If the company reneged, the bureau would retain the land rights and get anything on the lot, including buildings, for free.

But the deal hit a wall. The building went unfinished for 15 years, and local residents complained in May that the deserted complex posed a potential threat to the ecosystem. The complaint was filed with the All China Environment Federation (ACEF), a government-linked agency.

ACEF filed a public interest environmental lawsuit in July in Qingzhen Municipal Court, charging the land resources bureau with failing to fulfill its nondiscretionary duty. The case was accepted for a hearing the next day.

[…] The Baihua Lake case has been hailed as China’s first, public interest lawsuit lodged by an environmental group and accepted by a court. Observers say it has significant implications for the country’s legal system.

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