The recent revision of the Civil Procedure Law is attracting attention from environmental groups. On August 16, two environmental NGOs, Friends of Nature and the Chongqing Green Volunteer League, told the Legal Daily that they had submitted a public letter to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. Both NGOs are involved in a chromium pollution lawsuit in Yunnan where they have encountered various obstacles from local authorities. See CDB’s recent article about this case.
The most recent revision of the Civil Procedure Law gives a narrow definition of plaintiffs authorized to initiate a public interest lawsuit as “state organs and relevant social associations [shetuan] stipulated by law”. Yet social associations constitute only one category of legally registered NGOs, and most social associations are GONGOs. (Chongqing Green Volunteer League, which is registered as a social association, is a rare exception.) In contrast, many of the more independent and active environmental NGOs such as Friends of Nature and the Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs, are registered as civil non-enterprise units (minban feiqiye danwei) which are not mentioned in the Civil Procedure Law.
The public letter therefore calls on the legislative departments to revise the Civil Procedure Law to expand the scope of the legal plaintiffs to include “social organizations [shehui zuzhi] and state organs”, where social organizations includes all three categories of legally registered NGOs: social associations, civil non-enterprise units and foundations.