Governor appears in court over land seizure dispute

     Updated : 2016-04-05

A deputy provincial governor in Guizhou Province appeared in court on Monday over a land seizure dispute with a farmer, a remarkable event since China changed the law last year to make it easier for citizens to sue the government.

Chen Mingming appeared in the Intermediate People's Court of Guiyang, the provincial capital.

The plaintiff, Ding Jiaqiang, of Zunyi City, demanded the Guizhou government revoke a compensation scheme for a highway project, issued by the Zunyi municipal government in June.

Ding claimed he had not seen the land seizure notice and that there was no public consultation on the compensation plan. He also said the compensation was too low.

He filed an appeal with the provincial government, but was rejected. He then filed a lawsuit with the court.

Disputes related to land seizures are common in China. But it is rare to see senior officials in court.

Such officials are "afraid of becoming defendants, losing face, and thus unwilling to appear in court, only assigning ordinary employees to handle the cases," said Chen.

The principals should have "self-confidence in law-based administration and the courage to rectify errors according to law," he said.

The government can also protect its own interests and authority through lawsuits, he added.

Monday's trial lasted a little over two hours. The court will announce a verdict later.

According to the Legal Affairs Office of Guizhou, it is the first time in China for a leading official from a provincial government to appear in court in administrative lawsuits.

The revision of the Administrative Procedure Law came into effect in May last year. It enables citizens to sue the government more easily and demands leading government officials appear in court. There has been a rise in administrative lawsuits since the new law was implemented.

The practice of leading officials appearing in court is conducive to promoting lawful administration and ensuring the public can get justice, said Ying Songnian with China University of Political Science and Law.

Officials need to set an example in promoting the rule of law, said Jiang Ming'an, legal researcher with Peking University.