Monday, August 25, 2014

China Lawmakers to Expand Right to Sue Government Agencies // xinhuanet

BEIJING, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- A bill that would make it easier for citizens to bring court cases against the government went up for a second review on Monday.

An amendment that would broaden actionable cases against the government beyond the current restriction of "specific administrative acts" was put forth before the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on the first day of their bimonthly review meeting.

The draft amendment was put forth to officials involved with Administrative Procedure Law.

Currently, citizens, companies and other organizations can only file suits against "specific administrative acts" by administrative agencies or personnel which they believe to have infringed their rights.

As Articles 11 and 12 explicitly list which kind of acts that are actionable, the amendment removes the word "specific," which sometimes is used by courts to throw out cases.

The extra restriction is one of the biggest roadblocks for citizens to sue the government.

According to a survey by Xiu Fujin, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, only 35.19 percent of cases filed against government agencies were accepted by courts in 2012.

Jiang Ming'an, professor of the Peking University, advised further easing of restrictions for such lawsuits.

Currently, courts can only punish an administrative act when it is deemed illegal. The draft allows acts that are "evidently unreasonable".

The draft also compels representatives of the administrations concerned to personally appear before the court. Currently, most defendants simply ask their lawyers to represent them in court, which often does little to help settle the dispute.

"Having them appear in court will also effectively promote the officials' awareness of the rule of law," Jiang said.

Another suggested change will see broadened responsibility, with the original department in question and the administration that reviewed the case listed as joint defendants. According to current law, an administrative agency that reviews another agency's actions will only be listed as a defendant if they change their original decision.

In the past, such stipulations have resulted in a reluctance to change controversial decisions to avoid being dragged into legal battles. In some situations, it has rendered the administrative review system ineffective.

The draft also extends time limits for hearings and how long plaintiffs have before filing suits.

The 1990 Administrative Procedure Law is a major guarantee for the citizens' right to pursue the government through the courts.

Because using administrative power in accordance with law is a key requirement in the rule of law, the draft amendment, which streamlines the administrative litigation procedures, is also expected to promote it, Jiang said.

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