China’s First Environmental Public Interest Litigation: Green NGOs Win

On Thursday, October 29, 2015, the Nanping Intermediate People’s Court of Fujian Province issued a judgment in favor of the two environmental NGOs plaintiffs, Friends of Nature (FON) and Fujian Green Home on China’s first environmental public interest case. The case, which concerned resource destruction and environmental restoration related to an illegal mining site was heard under China’ new Environmental Protection Law, which took effect on January 1, 2015.

The case began on December 4, 2014 that two Green NGOs filed a complaint in the Nanping Court against four individuals, seeking cleanup and restoration of an illegal mining site and the Court accepted the case on January 1, 2015. These four defendants were charged with involving with destruction of 1.89 hectares of forestry land by carrying out mining activities.

The Court held two lengthy hearings, one in May and one in June this year before it reached the verdict. In ruling for FON and Fujian Green Home, the Nanping Court held that 1) the defendants shall restore the damage site to a place that has wooded land function in accordance with the Technical Guidelines for Afforestation (DB35/T84-2005) and local forestry bureau’s instruction within three months, including cleaning up the waste and replanting the trees, and maintain and protect the site for three years; 2) Should the defendants failed to be in compliance with the first order within the timeframe, the defendants shall pay 1.1 million yuan (approximately 0.18 million dollars) to an special account designated by the Court that the fund will be used to restore the damaged site; 3) the defendants shall pay 1.27 million yuan (approximately 0.2 million dollars) as ecological interim losses to a special fund, which will be used for restoration projects on site or off sites in surrounding areas; 4) the defendants shall pay FON’s attorney fees of 96,200 yuan (approximately 15,516 dollars), expert fee of 6,000 yuan (approximately 967.7 dollars)  and reasonable litigation related cost of 31,308 yuan (approximately 5,505 dollars);  and pay Fujian Green Home’ attorney fee of 25,261 yuan (approximately 4,074 dollars) and reasonable litigation related cost of 7,393 yuan (approximately 1,192 dollars).

The defendants expressed that they will appeal to the Fujian Provincial High Court. Though it has not been finalized, this is a great victory for the environmental civil society groups in China and the new environmental public interest litigation (EPIL) system. There are many innovative practices that we can write a more detailed article to analyze.  As the Nanping case is only one of the 23 cases that have been accepted by the court as of July 30, 2015 this year, we will keep you posted on the development of these cases and please follow us for the updates. The outcomes of these cases will provide a critical measure of whether the Chinese government is serious about allowing NGOs to participate in the enforcement of China’s new EPL. We are cautiously optimistic!

For more information about the Nanping case, please read LIN Yanmei, Jack Tuholske, Field Notes From the Far East: China’s New Public Interest Environmental Protection Law in Action

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