Virtual Guest Speakers 

April 27:

Wang Xi, Environmental Law Professor
Topic: China and international environmental law
 
 
Biography
Virtual Lecture  (Real Audio format)
Transcript of Lecture
Discussion List   (Wang Xi will participate from April 27 - May 4).

Short Biography of Wang Xi

Biography: Wang Xi is an environmental law professor, and Vice Director of the Research Institute of Environmental Law at Wuhan University in China.  Among his other accomplishments, Wang Xi authors an annual report on China and international environmental law for the Yearbook of International Environmental Law (published by Oxford University press).  His virtual talk is based on that annual report.


Virtual lecture

China and International Environmental Law (available on-line soon) 

This lecture is recorded in RealAudio format.  To download the free RealAudio Player, click here.


Transcript of lecture

Hi, everyone. My name is Wang Xi. I am an environmental law professor at the Research Institute of Environmental Law, Wuhan University, China. I am happy to have the opportunity to talk with you about environmental law of China on the Internet.

Environmental law of China is a very broad topic, just as broad as environmental law in any countries. It is very difficult to cover such a broad subject by a short Internet talk. So, I am going to focus my talk on the performance of China in the area of international environmental law in the year 1997. I and Associate Professor Bryan Bachner at the City University of Hong Kong contributed the country report on this topic to the Yearbook of International Environmental Law since 1994, which is published by the Oxford University Press every year. Your may check the book for more information if you wish.

As you may know, the year 1997 is a very important year in the modern history of China. In this year, the new generation of Communist leaders headed by Mr. Jiang Zemin smoothly succeeded the leadership of the first generation of Communist leaders headed by Mr. Deng Xiaoping, who passed away in February. On the first of July, China smoothly restored her sovereign power over Hong Kong after 150 years of British ruling of that territory. .

It is important to note that Mr. Jiang Zemin, the General Secretary of CCP and the President of China, re-emphasized the strategy of sustainable development on behalf of the Central Committee of CCP in his report addressed to the 15th National Conference of CCP. He stated that China "must carry out the strategy of sustainable development in its modernization construction" and "correctly treat the relationship between economic development and population, resources and environment".

China has been active in all areas of international environmental law in this year. .I am going to divide my talk into three parts. The first part is about China and multilateral environmental treaties. The second part is about China and regional and bilateral environmental agreements and cooperation. The third part is about international environmental law cases related to China.

Now, let me turn to the first part, China and multilateral environmental treaties.

China acceded to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1989. The new development of the year 1997 in this area is that the Chinese government issued a Notice on Prohibiting the Use of CFCs in Volatile Solvent Industries on 5 June. The notice comprehensively banned the use of CFCs in volatile solvent industries, except where CFCs are used for the production of medicines. The ban started from 31 December 1997.

China is a contracting party of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. In 1997, A Chinese Governmental Delegation attended the Third Parties Conference of the Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Kyoto, Japan, from 1-11, December. China signed the Kyoto Protocol.

China acceded to the Convention on Wetlands in 1992. In 1997, China started a Project of Wetland Biodiversity Protection and Sustainable Use in August, which is a project sponsored by the Global Environmental Facility. The project cover three large wetlands areas in China.

China is a contracting party of the Convention on Desertification. In 1997, a Symposium on Land Erosion Prevention and Control was held in Beijing on 16 May. The symposium was attended by Mr. Till Damborfer, the Vice Director of the Desertification Prevention and Control Center, UNEP, Mr. G Kalbernatten, the Coordinator of the Temporary Secretariat of the Desertification Convention, and Chinese officials from various ministries as well as Chinese experts.

Immediately after the symposium, a Ministerial Conference on Prevention and Control of Desertification in Asia was held in Beijing on 17 May. The conference was jointly organized by the Temporary Secretariat of the Convention on Desertification and the Chinese Government. When he met with the representatives of the conference President Jiang Zemin emphasized the necessity of protecting the earth's environment in the development of economy.

China is a contracting party of Convention on Biological Diversity. The Seventh Meeting of the Ministerial Coordinating Group for Implementing the Biodiversity Convention was held in Beijing on 15 May. The meeting reviewed the progress made in implementing the convention, reviewed and decided the data management plan, and discussed the matter of drafting the National Report of China on Implementing the Biodiversity Convention.

In November, the first Gene Bank of Yangtao was established in Wuhan, that is the city my university is located. Yantao is a fruit with very good taste and rich in a lot of Vitamins. The Wuhan Plants Research Institute of the China Academy of Science establishes the bank. It keeps 51 varieties of the yangtao genes. It is the largest gene bank of such kind in the world so far.

China is a contracting party of Basel Convention. In 1997, The National People's Congress promulgated the revised Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China on 14 March. The law, take the offenses against environment and resources as crimes for the first time. One of the environmental crimes is the crime of illegal import of solid wastes. The punishments for the crime include fine, imprisonment and death penalty (Death penalty is only applied for the crime of armed smuggling wastes).

China signed the Convention on the Ban of Chemical Weapons on 30 December 1996 and submitted the approval document for the convention to the UN on 25 April 1997. China is an original party of the convention.

China signed the Rio Declaration and the Agenda 21 negotiated in the Earth Summit of 1992. In 1997, a Delegation of the Chinese Government attended the 19th Meeting of the Executive Council of UNEP on 27 January. The Chinese Delegation supported the suggestion of strengthening the position and role of UNEP in global environmental affairs and called on developed countries to fulfill their commitment made at the Earth Summit in 1992.

The 56th Standing Meeting of the State Council passed the National Report of the People's Republic of China on Sustainable Development on 7 May. The meeting decided to submit the report to the UN Special Meeting on Environment and Development held in New York in June. The report explained the progress China had made for implementing the Agenda 21 since the 1992 .

A Chinese Governmental Delegation headed by Mr. Song Jian, the State Councilor, attended the UN Special Meeting on Environment and Development held in New York on 23 June. Mr. Song Jian expressed China's position on strengthening international environmental cooperation in his speech to the conference. The Chinese positions are: 1) actively promote the cooperation between science and technology and the field of environment and development; 2) based on the principles established at the UNCED, help developing countries to increase their capacity of environmental protection and development by creating more beneficial conditions for them to enlarge their foreign trade and to receive more foreign investment; 3) take strong measures to reverse the trend of fast decreasing financial aid to developing countries; and 4) encourage developing countries to fully apply their own potential while actively attracting foreign aid.

Two Chinese cities, Shenyang in the Northeast and Wuhan in the Central South, were selected as the demonstration cities of the Sustainable Cities Program co-sponsored by UNDP, UNEP and UNCHS in 1997.

The Annual Meeting of the Global City Sustainable Development Program was held in Shenyang City in October. Governmental representatives from over 20 countries attended this meeting. The meeting passed the Shenyang Declaration.

China has paid great attention to the development of ISO14000, although it is a series of voluntary standards.

The National Environmental Protection Agency of China issued, for the first time, ISO 14001 certificates to four companies on 22 January.

The China Environmental Management System Certification Guidance Committee was approved by the State Council and established in May. The committee consists of representatives from 33 ministries, commissions and bureaus of the State Council and is headed by the Administrator of NEPA. Its function is to coordinate the promotion of ISO 14000 standards in China.

Now, please let me turn to the second part of my talk, that is China and the Regional and Bilateral Agreements and Cooperation.

As to the regional development, China participated in the APEC Environmental Ministers Conference held in Toronto from 6-11 June. The Chinese Delegation expressed China's position on clean production, sustainability of marine environment and sustainable cities. Mr. Xie Zhenhua, the Administrator of NEPA and the Head of the Chinese Delegation, met with environmental ministers of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Canada and the Assistant Secretary of the State Department of the United States. China opened an APEC Environmental Protection Center in Beijing on 5 June.

The Environmental Ministers of Korea, Japan and the Administrator of NEPA, China, met in New York when they attended the UN Special Meeting on Environment and Development on 24 June. They exchanged opinions on the control of air and marine pollution in the East Asia region.

As to the bilateral agreements and co-operations, China and France signed the Sino-French Agreement on Environmental Protection Cooperation in Beijing in May.

The Administrator of NEPA, China and the Minister of Water Resources, Forestry and Environmental Protection, Romania, signed the Sino-Romanian Agreement on Cooperation in Environmental Protection in Beijing on 22 August.

NEPA of China and the Environment Ministry of Norway signed the Sino-Norwegian Environmental Cooperation Plan and Projects Agreement in October.

Nanjing City, China, and the State of Bavaria, Germany, signed an Environmental Cooperation Agreement on 22 October.

China and the United States jointly issued a Sino-American Joint Statement on 29 October. The statement declared that the two countries would strengthen the cooperation in the field of environmental protection.

China and the Russian Federation jointly issued a Sino-Russian Joint Statement on 10 November. The statement declared, among other things, to strengthen cooperation in environmental protection, transboundary pollution control, and rational and economical use of natural resources between the two countries.

China and Japan reached an Agreement on the Environmental Cooperation for the 21st Century in Tokyo on 13 November. The agreement provides that Japan shall help China to improve environmental information networks for 100 Chinese cities in the next three years.

In 1997, there were many high level foreign environmental officials visited China and many high level Chinese environmental officials visited other countries. Please let me give you some examples.

The Administrator of NEPA, Mr. Xie Zhenhua, met with an American Congressional Delegation headed by Mr. Curt Weidon, the Chairman of the Group of Military Research and Development of the House of Representatives, in Beijing on 24 January.

The Vice President of the United States, Mr. Al Gore, visited China in March. Premier Li Peng and Mr. Gore jointly conducted the Sino-American Environment and Development Symposium on 25 March in Beijing. Premier Li Peng proposed four principles for the cooperation in environment and development between the United Sates and China in the symposium. The four principles are: 1) seeking mutual respect and common ground while recognizing the existence of differences; 2) the achievement of equality, mutual benefit and assistance; 3) learning from each other and enlarging collaboration; and 4) paying attention to the present situation and looking forward toward the future.

The Environment Minister of France visited China in March. Mr. Song Jian, a State Councilor and Mr. Xie Zhenhua, the Administrator of NEPA met her.

Mr. Xie Zhenhua, the Administrator of NEPA, visited Australia and exchanged opinions on environmental policies and issues concerning the Framework Convention on Climate Change, toxic chemicals' management, desertification and marine environment with the deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and a deputy minister of the Environmental Ministry from 1-7 April.

A Deputy Administrator of NEPA and a Vice-Minister of the Ministry of the Economy of Germany jointly conducted a Sino-German Environmental Technology Cooperation Symposium in Beijing in May.

The Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Environment, Mr. Rafrel Eitan, visited Beijing on 12 May.

The German Minister of the Environment visited China and met with Mr. Song Jian, the State Councilor and Mr. Xie Zhenhua, the Administrator of NEPA, on 28 August. They recalled the cooperation between the two countries in the field of environmental protection and exchanged views on the Framework Convention of Climate Change.

The King and The Queen of Norway visited NEPA in Beijing, on 24 October. During their visit, NEPA and the Environment Ministry of Norway signed the Sino-Norwegian Environmental Cooperation Plan and Projects Agreement.

Mr. Jiang Zemin, the President of China, visited the United States in October. Environmental cooperation is one of the topics that Mr. Jiang discussed with Mr. Bill Clinton, the President of the United States. The two countries jointly issued a Sino-American Joint Statement during Mr. Jiang's visit. The statement emphasized the importance of environmental cooperation between the two countries.

Mr. Yeltsin, the President of the Russian Federation, visited China, on 10 November. A Sino-Russian Joint Statement was issued in Beijing during his visit. The statement declared, among other things, to strengthen cooperation in environmental protection, transboundary pollution control, and the rational and economical use of natural resources between the two countries.

Finally, we reach the last part of my talk, that is the international environmental law case related to China.

On 13 January, 1997 the First Intermediate People's Court of Shanghai City sentenced William Ping Chen, an American citizen, to 10 years in imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 yuan for the crime of smuggling into China 16 containers of wastes, including 238 tons of household wastes and some hospital wastes, both are prohibited from importation by Chinese law. William Ping Chen was ordered by the court to be deported.

A Belize ship was fined according to international practice in Wenzhou Port in June, because it discharged waste oil in the port.

A Panama freighter was fined 60,000 yuan and ordered to pay 165,900 yuan for the costs of cleaning up by the Port Superintendent of Shanghai on 15 October. The freighter was found discharging oily waste water into the Huangpu River.

Ladies and gentlemen, In concluding my talk, I would like to remainder you that in addition to the performance in the area of international environmental law, there is a very rich and innovative development in the area of domestic environmental law in China. China is an important member of the international society. I hope you are interested in my talk. Thank you and thank Professor Steve Johnson of the Law School of Mercer University, who organized the Internet environmental law class.