Procuratorate Public Interest Litigation Pilot Sites

by Jeremy Daum | 2015/06/25 1:33 AM

In accordance with the mandate of the Fourth Plenum Decision [Section IV.2], China is exploring having the procuratorate initiate public interest litigation in accordance with a new authorization by the National People’s Congress explained by Supreme People’s Procuratorate Chief Procurator, Cao Jianming.

Chinese procuratorates have always had powers of legal supervision, which generally involves conducting criminal prosecutions,  investigating misconduct in office by state employees and approving of arrests by police,  but also includes reviewing whether  court proceedings conform with the law.

Initiating public prosecutions is a new extension of this authority, allowing the procuratorate to file suit on behalf of the public good, and has generally been discussed in the areas of environmental protection and consumer protections.  Earlier this year, the Supreme People’s court also released an interpretation clarifying standing and procedures for civil cases of environment public interest litigation, by which a limited set of environmental organizations may raise public interest lawsuits even if not directly affected, in accordance with the Environmental Protection Law as well as by the procuratorate

It’s great to have lawsuits filed on behalf of the public interest, rather than just to address the harm to a specific party or parties. This gives the courts a bigger role in addressing issues that concern all of society, potentially raising their credibility and impact. Procuratorates using the courts for administrative public interest litigation,brings part of their supervision of administrative departments into the courts even when a crime is not committed.
Having the procuratorate act as the primary ‘public interest litigators’, instead of say civil society organizations litigating on behalf of concerned membership etc, seems less great, as it perpetuates the concept of the government/Party as the only body representing the people. We think of public interest litigation as the people using the courts to promote social change and protect their rights, and this isn’t that– it is litigation for the public interest and on behalf of the public, but not necessarily by the public.
The Environmental Protection Law does allow for civil public interest organizations to be initiated by a limited class of civil society organizations, and the pilot plan shows a preference for those groups filing suit over the procuratorate. Many of the organizations eligible to initiate such litigation, however, are quasi-governmental themselves- and it remains to see how it will all play out.


The new public interest litigation pilot projects will proceed in 13 provincial level jurisdictions for 2 years, including  Inner Mongolia, Jilin, Jiangsu, Anhui, Fujian, Shandong, Hubei, Guangdong, Guizhou, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Gansu.

 Subject Areas


The Supreme People’s Procuratorate and Supreme People’s Court will monitor the pilots together, and report issues that arise to the National People’s congress.

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Jeremy Daum is a Senior Fellow of the Yale Law School Paul Tsai China Center, based in Beijing, with over a decade of experience working in China on collaborative legal reform projects. His principal research focus is criminal procedure law, with a particular emphasis on protections of vulnerable populations such as juveniles and the mentally ill in the criminal justice system, and is also an authority on China’s ‘Social Credit System’. Jeremy has spoken about these issues at universities throughout China and in the U.S.; and has co-authored a book on U.S. Capital Punishment Jurisprudence for Chinese readers. He is also the founder and contributing editor of the collaborative translation and commentary site, dedicated to improving mutual understanding between legal professionals in China and abroad.
He translates, writes, edits, does web-design, graphic design, billing, tech support, and social media outreach for China Law Translate.

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