China Daily has just reported the Longyan Municipal Intermediate People’s Court upholding a prior Xinluo District Court ruling fining Zijin Mining for $4.6 million in damages and sentencing the company’s former vice president, Chen Jiahong, the company’s environmental protection officer, Huang Fucai, and three other company managers to three-year sentences. Zijin Mining was found guilty of leaking acid into the Tingjiang River in Fujian Province killing fish and contaminating water.
I followed this news last year with interest, because Fujian Province is where I originally grew up. (More background on this spill can be found on Caixing’s article, “A River Runs Red in Fujian.”)
As I was explaining to this Chinese auto-worker about fighting graft recently, it is critically important China establishes a legal-minded society. In the early stages, the central government must nurture the people and the media in hammering hard against companies or local governments breaking law. The people and the media need to get used to the idea that the court system is where justice is sought. The more cases, such as this one where the people win and criminal negligence and corruption looses, are publicized, the more people will utilize the system. In turn society becomes cleaner.
Americans may complain about their society too litigious. The flip side of people not suing enough is they are bribing powerful people to help them win disputes outside the justice system, and that is corruption.
Some argue, judges can be bribed too. In our recent trip to China, we heard that on a number of occasions. I imagine this problem is hardly unique to China though.