Chinese environmental group wins 2 cases

AP News
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Posted: Dec 18, 2009 10:06 AM

An environmental group backed by the government said Friday it had won two lawsuits on behalf of residents threatened by pollution, marking the first time such an organization has been allowed to file a public interest case.

Chinese courts have historically barred groups like the All China Environment Federation from bringing such suits as plaintiffs, said Lu Keqin, the organization's head, but lawsuits filed by individual citizens are often unsuccessful because they lack resources and money. The federation, however, can call on the support of 44 law firms and some 115 attorneys who donate their time, Lu said.

The legal victories pave the way for the group to file lawsuits in the future in cases involving environmental public interest, he said. Though it is affiliated with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and its staff includes government leaders, the federation is considered a nongovernment organization in China.

The first case occurred in eastern Jiangsu province, where residents complained pollution caused by the Jiangyin Port Shipping Containers Company affected the surrounding air and their drinking water.

Residents contacted the federation in May this year and a group of volunteer lawyers who went to investigate found iron-ore dust was illegally released into the air and wastewater, which went into the Yangtze River. They filed suit against the company to stop the pollution.

The second case was in Guizhou province, where the federation alleged the local Land Resources Bureau had struck an improper deal to allow development on land that would have compromised water safety for local residents.