At the end of October, China’s ‘Environmental Protection Law’ was again discussed in the NPC Standing Committee’s third investigation. The discussion touched upon the requirements for public interest lawsuits, and meant that once again society focused on the issues surrounding legal action. The first time that the draft was considered, public interest lawsuits were not mentioned. The second time that the draft was considered, the limits surrounding public interest litigation were relaxed so that only the All-China Environmental Federation could file lawsuits. The third time that the draft was deliberated, the subject of lawsuits was again brought up, with new restrictions proposed. However, facing the newly established qualifications, environmental NGOs are urgently asking for qualifications that unleash public interest lawsuits.
After moving forward for more than half a year, the end result of Beijing’s first public interest lawsuit was still that it had been ‘refused filing’. This left Hu Shaobo, a Beijing lawyer who has been involved with environmental pollution cases for a long time, somewhat astonished: “after all, this is Beijing’s first case of a environmental public welfare lawsuit.” Hu, introducing the case, said that it first came up in March of this year when Hu and his law partner, Dai Renhui, were commissioned to represent two environmental NGOs. Three times he went to the site of the alleged crime, to investigate the environmental pollution caused by the Ordos subsidiary arm of the China Shenhua Coal to Liquid and Chemical Company. On one of those times he was accompanied by an ecology expert from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. From those onsite investigations it was obvious to Hu that the Shenhua company had been wreaking havoc on the local ecology over the past few years.