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Top court sets out guideline for Yangtze law


Chinese courts have been ordered to improve the conservation of the Yangtze River Basin ecosystem and ensure the region's high-quality development by giving polluters tougher punishments and promoting environmental restoration.

A guideline issued by the Supreme People's Court on Thursday aims to help courts nationwide accurately implement the Yangtze River Protection Law and efficiently handle cases related to the river basin.

The law, the country's first drafted for a specific basin, will take effect on Monday.

The 16-article guideline highlights the significance of promoting ecological conservation and green development of the basin, demanding courts at all levels harshly punish violators and increase compensation for ecological damage.

"Every court should accurately and strictly carry out the law to ensure the damaged areas in the river basin can be restored thoroughly and polluters pay the price," Yang Linping, vice-president of the top court, said when introducing the guideline at a news conference on Thursday.

As the law bans fishing in all of the river's natural waterways, including its main tributaries and lakes, Yang called for courts to strengthen efforts to solve cases related to the ban to protect endangered species and improve the stability of the ecosystem.

"We need to make a green lifestyle and environmental production mode more popular among the public by improving the quality of major case hearings, publishing relevant reports and disclosing influential cases," she added.

In recent years, as the country's central leadership has attached greater importance to fighting pollution and begun taking various measures to protect the environment, Chinese courts, especially those along the river and in some other vulnerable areas, have stepped up efforts to deal with environmental cases.

Since 2017, more than 3,470 people have been put behind bars by courts in Chongqing for environment-related crimes, including illegal fishing and endangering wild animals, said Wang Zhongwei, vice-president of the Chongqing High People's Court.

He said courts across Chongqing will safeguard biosecurity in the river basin through case hearings and try their best to implement the fishing ban.

Courts in Jiangxi province have increased punishments for those illegally fishing, mining sand or hunting wildlife in Poyang Lake over the past few years, said Hu Shuzhu, vice-president of the Jiangxi High People's Court, adding more than 4,500 people have been penalized for such crimes since 2017.

After the law was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the nation's top legislature, a number of activities were rolled out across the country to help residents understand the law.

Government departments such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs also pledged to play leading roles in implementing the law, increasing environmental inspections and guiding local authorities to accurately carry out the fishing ban.