Legal protections, services upheld during pandemic

( Updated : 2020-05-26

Legal protections, services upheld during pandemic
Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People's Court, delivers work reports of the top court and the top procuratorate on May 25, 2020 in Beijing. [Photo by Feng Yongbin/China Daily]

Chinese people and enterprises have been given strong legal protection and efficient legal services during the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak thanks to intensified efforts of the country's procuratorates and courts at all levels, according to work reports of the country's top court and top procuratorate.

On May 25, the two judicial authorities showed their determination to fight crime and illegal activities related to the COVID-19 pandemic through work reports delivered at the second plenary meeting of the third session of the 13th National People's Congress, China's national legislature.

While pledging to continue safeguarding people's legitimate rights, both authorities said they would also continue to promote easier access to litigation and better services for enterprises.

From February to April, procuratorates at all levels approved the arrest of 3,751 people and took 2,521 of them to court for criminal charges related to the outbreak, Zhang Jun, procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, said while delivering the SPP work report.

"We quickly issued guidelines on cracking down on pandemic-related crimes, calling for harsher punishment for people disturbing prevention measures, harming medical workers and obstructing control work in border areas," Zhang said.

"The outbreak came unexpectedly, but the importance of fighting offenses by rule of law should always be highlighted," he said.

Legal protections, services upheld during pandemic
Procurator-General Zhang Jun delivers work reports of the top court and the top procuratorate on May 25, 2020 in Beijing. [Photo by Feng Yongbin/China Daily]

When suspects are infected with COVID-19, their medical treatment is guaranteed, while a lenient policy is adopted for those accused of minor crimes linked to pandemic control, he added.

According to the SPP work report, procuratorates across the country dismissed the arrest of 576 people and decided not to prosecute 117 people in accordance with the law.

With suspects taken to court, hearings have also been strengthened in the past few months. The work report of the Supreme People's Court showed that courts at all levels filed 6,328 pandemic-related cases, of which, 2,736 had been concluded.

By solving cases in a timely manner, courts nationwide supported the resumption of work and production for companies, especially the medium-sized and small ones, by issuing guidance and reducing people's burden in litigation by wide application of online platforms, according to Zhou Qiang, president of the SPC.

"The smart court system has played a bigger role in easing litigation during the outbreak," he said while delivering the SPC report at the third session of the 13th NPC.

Legal protections, services upheld during pandemic
Major judicial numbers for 2019

Since the pandemic hit, Chinese courts filed 1.36 million cases, had 250,000 hearings and mediated 590,000 times on the internet, with abundant online evidence exchanges and deliveries, Zhou said. He added smart courts offered efficient legal services and strong legal protection to both litigants and social development.

The SPP and SPC handled a series of influential cases during the outbreak to ensure the accuracy of application of the law and keep the public informed, the reports said.

Zhou Guangquan, a national legislator and law professor at Tsinghua University, welcomed the judicial measures against the pandemic-related offenses.

"Providing guidelines and listing typical cases are helpful for judicial officials when new problems are emerging in practice. The pandemic was no exception," he said. "The timely interpretation of laws and clarification of prevention measures from the top court and the top procuratorate gave clear solutions to different offenses, which demonstrated the spirit of the law and were in conformity with basic legal principles."