China Tort Law Set to Further Guard Individual Rights

China implemented a new tort law on July 1. From Xinhua:

China’s newly-implemented tort law, the country’s first special law on liability for acts of infringement, is likely to further safeguard individuals’ personal and property rights and better gauge social behavior, law experts said Friday.

The Tort Liability Law, which took effect Thursday, provides that people may sue for damages following medical accidents, road accidents, harm from pollution, mental distress, and violations of privacy or reputation on the Internet, as well as injuries from objects thrown from high-rise buildings.

“Due to the lack of a legal basis to handle infringement cases in the past, the enforcement of the tort law will possibly trigger a surge in civil claims in the near future,” said Wang Jun, a professor from the law school of Shanghai-based Fudan University.

The tort law, approved in December of last year, has been seen as one of the key laws within China’s legal framework of civil rights protection.

The Financial Times reports on the marked, albeit limited, significance of the new law:

In China, politicians decide which disputes get into court. A new law alone cannot change that. However, the law is still expected to lead to a boom in tort lawsuits, and will give ordinary people a new channel for resolving disputes outside the political system.

Along with the passage two years ago of a labour contract law, which helps workers fight back against abusive employers, the tort law will encourage a culture of individual rights, and could act as a safety valve for pressures on the political system, legal experts say.

The tort law has already wielded some influence, as it was cited as an influence in a recent court ruling against Baidu. Baidu was fined for causing emotional distress to a young woman, after a spurned lover disseminated her nude photos and identification information on the Internet. The search engine has since deployed 200 people to filter or delete relevant results. From Global Times:

A Shanghai court has ordered Baidu, China’s largest search engine, to publicly apologize to a female university student whose nude photos were published online and compensate her for pain and suffering.

Li Hongguang, the court’s publicity officer, told the Global Times Thursday that it was the first case in Shanghai of privacy rights infringement over the Internet.

He said the judgment was based on the general principles of the Civil Law, but that the court had also referred to the Tort Liability Law, which went into effect Thursday.

China Youth Daily reported Thursday that the People’s Court of Jing’an district in Shanghai ruled that Baidu should pay 22,000 yuan ($3,242) in compensation for the damage inflicted on student Yin Hong, and another 2,000 yuan to compensate for her economic losses.


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