Government officials ordered to answer questions at trials
Government officials have been ordered to attend and answer questions at trials related to influential incidents, including ones that resulted in mass disturbances and those dealing with the safety of medicines, environmental protection or public health, a newly released judicial interpretation said.
The 15-article legal document, issued by the Supreme People's Court, China's top court, on Tuesday, will take effect on July 1.
"The aim of the interpretation is to protect residents' legitimate rights and thoroughly solve their conflicts with government agencies as well as to improve officials' abilities in governance by rule of law," the top court said in a statement.
The interpretation orders officials from government departments to explain administrative rules and respond to plaintiffs' questions during trials, instead of just passively appearing in court.
The top court said lawyers often represent officials in administrative case hearings when government departments are sued, but it's sometimes hard for them to explain administrative decisions or attitudes during courtroom mediation.
In other words, lawyers are familiar with laws but have an inadequate understanding of the difficulties government departments face in law enforcement, which require further explanation by officials during trials.
The judicial interpretation also regulates the procedures compelling government agencies to attend court hearings. It allows them to not participate in trials in the event of accidents or force majeure — unforeseen or uncontrollable events — but says they should inform courts if that happens. Courts will then be allowed to postpone related trials.