Proposed Legal Reforms Might Allow Citizens to Challenge Government Directives in Court (Story in Chinese)

September 17, 2004

According to a story carried in the Beijing News (Xinjing Bao), a recently released legislative draft proposal by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences would expand the ability of Chinese citizens to sue the PRC government under the Administrative Litigation Law. Drafters of the proposal included staff members from the legal affairs offices of the National People's Congress and the State Council. The extent to which these proposals will be implemented into law remains an open question.

The Administrative Litigation Law (ALL) currently allows Chinese plaintiffs to challenge only "concrete" acts of government organs that have been explicitly authorized by law or regulation. In practice, this has meant many internal government directives (such as those with a broader regulatory scope) as well as the actions of certain government actors (such as village residence committees or public schools) are exempt from legal challenges.

The proposed changes would expand the scope of the ALL, encompassing both a broader scope of administrative action as well as actions taken by all "organs of government power." These changes reflect increasing attention among Chinese academics, as well as certain government officials, as to the need to impose legal checks on state power.

Although the precise language of the CASS proposal is unclear from the article, the article suggests that it would also allow confidential government documents (so-called "red-hat documents") to be the subject of administrative lawsuits.