Procuracy-Led Public Interest Litigation and Its Impacts on Environmental Protection in China
Dr CHEN Tianhao (Associate Professor, Tsinghua University, China), in discussion with Professor Denise van de Kamp (Oxford)
Compared to economic developments, Chinese local governments are less inclined to prioritize environmental protection. In order to encourage greater commitment from local governments to environmental preservation, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) advocated enabling procuratorates at all levels to initiate administrative litigation, overseeing and urging local governments to actively protect the environment. This reform received affirmation through the 2017 revision of the Administrative Litigation Law.
In this talk, Professor CHEN Tianhao will discuss the efficacy of procuracy-led public interest litigation in promoting environmental protection in China. Empirical findings show that procuratorates rarely actually file administrative litigation. They typically issue recommendations and only threaten litigation if the suggested modifications are not followed. This leads to negotiations between the local government and the procuratorate in pursuit of mutually acceptable resolutions. This practice of public interest litigation by Chinese procuratorates reflects how, under the threat of litigation, constructive relationships between the judiciary and administration can be built.
Dr. CHEN Tianhao obtained his Ph.D in Public Law from Université de Bordeaux in France and is currently an Associate Professor jointly appointed by the School of Public Administration and the School of Law at Tsinghua University, China. With expertise in both doctrinal and socio-legal studies, his main areas of interests include Chinese administrative law, government contracts, and technology regulation, with research outputs appearing in several top tier academic journals in China. In particular, his several articles about characterization and doctrinal enrichment of public law contracts, or ‘administrative agreements’ as distinguished from private contracts in China, have greatly contributed to the relevant legal developments, culminating into an authoritative Supreme People’s Court’s judicial interpretation on administrative agreements in 2020. He also serves as the Deputy Director of the Government Legal Research Center at School of Public Administration and the Assistant Director at the Center for Science and Technology Development and Governance at Tsinghua University.
Denise van der Kamp is an Associate Professor in the Political Economy of China at Oxford’s School of Global and Area Studies and a Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall. She researches and teaches Chinese politics, comparative political economy, and environmental politics. Her research explores issues in developmental politics and environmental governance, with a focus on China. She examines politicians’ strategies for implementing environmental policies in contexts where both rule of law and civil society are weak. She is also developing new projects on regulatory uncertainty, and how actors accustomed to stable rules learn to negotiate unpredictable environments. Her work has been published in Comparative Politics, Governance, and World Development. Her book, Clean Air at What Cost? The Rise of Blunt Force Regulation in China was published in Jan 2023 with Cambridge University Press. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Research Grants Council in Hong Kong. Before coming to Oxford, Denise van der Kamp was an Assistant Professor at City University of Hong Kong. She holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, an MA from McGill University, and a BA from the University of Cambridge. From 2017-2018, she was also a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Contemporary China.