Chinese courts introduce punitive damages in environment lawsuits

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BEIJING — A judicial explanation issued by China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) on Thursday confirmed that polluters will have to pay punitive damages to the victims in environment lawsuits.

The move aims to punish and deter offenders as well as to fully compensate victims who suffer personal or financial loss due to environmental damage, said Yang Linping, vice president of the SPC, at a press conference.

Punitive damages will be granted if the offender is proven to be intentional and his or her act has caused serious consequences, Yang said.The amount of punitive damages will not normally exceed twice the amount of the personal damage and financial loss suffered by the victims, according to the legal document.

When setting punitive damages, the court will also take into account how much the offenders benefit from the crime and whether they have taken actions to remedy the harm done to the environment.

SourceSupreme People’s Court, 14 January 2022.

Aerial photo taken on Sept 23, 2021 shows the autumn scenery of Saihanba forest farm in North China’s Hebei province. [Photo/Xinhua] 

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