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Conflict and Balance Between the Right to Development and Environmental Rights: China’s Practice
November 02,2017   By:CSHRS

Conflict and Balance Between the Right to Development and Environmental Rights: China's Practice

ZHANG Aining*
 

Abstract: The right to development, the realization of which is subject to environmental rights, is an inalienable human right. The principle of sustainable development is based on the right to development but is a development path designed to protect the environment. The fact that environmental rights are not expressly stipulated in international human rights law does not deny its attribute as a human right. Therefore, environmental rights and the right to development are equally important, conducive to the realization of human sustainable development through the protection of environmental rights. In order to solve the contradiction between economic development and environmental protection in China, it is necessary to earnestly implement the Scientific Outlook on Development under strict judicial control in accordance with the law and to fully protect the publicˇs rights to know concerning environmental information, and encouraging the publicˇs participation in environmental decision-making.

Keywords: human rights ♦  right to development ♦  environmental rights ♦  intragenerational equity ♦  scientific concept of development

"Development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process", 1 but development has to protect and preserve the environment while seeking sustainable economic growth. Humans, while creating unprecedented economic growth and material wealth, have also caused serious damage to the natural environment, to the extent it threatens the future of humans as a biological species. Starting from the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which was held in Stockholm in 1972, the issue of the relationship between development and the environment has become a matter of great concern to the international community, and the focus of much attention in China in recent years.

Ⅰ. The Relationship Between Development and the Environment

A. Development is a matter of priority

The right to development is an inalienable human right.2 Before the basic requirements such as the basic necessities of human life have been resolved, it is meaningless to talk about environmental rights in isolation, especially for developing countries. The Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, adopted at the United Nations Conference on Human Environment in 1972, recognizes that, "economic and social development is essential for ensuring a favourable living and working environment for man and for creating conditions on earth that are necessary for the improvement of the quality of life.”3 The Beijing Declaration of the Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Developing Countries adopted by the Ministerial Conference of Developing Countries on the Environment and Development in 1991 also points out that "in this connection, the right to development of the developing countries must be fully recognized, and the adoption of measures for the protection of the global environment should support their economic growth and development”4 and "the developing countries have the sovereign right to use their own natural resources in keeping with their developmental and environmental objectives and priorities." 5

B. Development leads to environmental problems

The loss of resources and pollution are often the by-products of economic development. Economic and productive activities exploit natural resources and create pollutants and waste. If there is no environmental policy intervention, a country's overall environmental quality and level of pollution will continually worsen even as its national income grows.6 For example, the four big pollution diseases of Japan are a group of man-made diseases all caused by environmental pollution due to improper handling of industrial wastes by Japanese enterprises. The first occurred in 1912, and the other three — Minamata disease in Kumamoto Prefecture, Niigata Minamata disease in Niigata Prefecture and Yokkaichi Asthma — in the 1950s and 1960s, when Japan experienced unprecedented economic growth. In the late 1960s, Japan was known as the islands of pollution.7 Other developed countries also experienced varying degrees of serious environmental damage during the process of industrialization. For instance, air pollution was the cause of the Meuse Valley fog that killed 60 people in Belgium in 1930, the Donora smog in the United States that killed 20 people and hospitalized another 600, and the Great Smog of London in 1952 that killed about 4,000 people in four days and an estimated 8,000 in the following weeks and months. China is also suffering from severe pollution during its own rapid economic growth process.

C. The solution to environmental problems will ultimately depend on development

The Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 recognized that "in the developing countries most of the environmental problems are caused by under-development." 8 Forty years later, in 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council reaffirmed in its resolution on Human Rights and the Environment that "the right to development must be fulfilled in order to meet the development and environmental needs of present and future generations equitably."9 According to the Environmental Kuznets Curve Hypothesis environmental pressure increases up to a certain level as people's incomes rise; after that, it decreases. The Environmental Kuznets Curve Hypothesis reflects the natural process of economic development. In reality, if there is no environmental policy intervention, the overall environmental quality or pollution level of a country will worsen or be exacerbated along with the growth of national income in the early stages of economic development. When the national economy develops to a high level, the deterioration of the environmental quality or the aggravation of the pollution level begins to remain stable, and then gradually improves with the growth in national income. This is because with improvements in living standards, people have stronger demands for a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, hence putting pressure on the government and enterprises to take measures to protect the environment. At the same time, the strengthening of national power also makes a country capable of increasing its investment to protect the environment, so that environmental rights can be achieved.10 In Europe, the United States and other developed countries, economic development and industrialization have undergone such a process.

Ⅱ. The Principle of Sustainable Development: Environmental Rights Put a Check on the Right to Development

Environmental rights actually play a role in regulating the extent of the right to development and the mode of economic development. In countries and regions where productivity lags behind that of developed countries, economic development is seen as a matter of priority. However, while emphasizing the right to development, environmental rights should not be overlooked, nor can national economic decision-making be guided by the old idea of treatment after pollution. Developing countries should heed the warnings of the mistakes made by developed countries in their development process. In any case, the harm of economic development to the environment should not exceed the carrying capacity of the environment or even endanger the survival of mankind. In this regard, the concept of "sustainable development" represents the balance that should be achieved between the Right to Development and environmental rights.

A. The principle of sustainable development

"Sustainable development" means "the development of the ability to meet contemporary human needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".11 Sustainable development thus means: (1) The development of contemporary human beings should not undermine the natural ecological basis that future generations of humans depend on, so the development and use of natural resources must be controlled within a reasonable and appropriate range to maintain their ability to regenerate; (2) Development is the goal. Sustainable development is only a change to the mode of development, rather than stopping or limiting development.

The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development issued in 1992 further developed the concept of sustainable development, noting that "human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development" 12 and that "in order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process".13

The concept of sustainable development, which better expresses the balance between economic development and environmental protection, has become the primary goal and core value of international environmental protection in the process of economic development, and is considered to be a generally-accepted principle for the conduct of international organizations, countries, groups and individuals in the field of environmental protection and development for a considerable period of time.14

B. Are environmental rights human rights?

Environmental rights seems to have been taken for granted, but within the United Nations, there is no recognition that environmental rights are human rights, nor does the international community have a legally binding universal human rights document to establish such a right. Professor John H. Knox, the independent expert of the United Nations Human Rights Council in his 2012 report On the Issue of Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment, pointed out that "although the Human Rights Commission considered the report, it did not adopt or endorse the draft principles or appoint a Special Rapporteur itself. The Commission and Council, as well as other United Nations human rights bodies and mechanisms, have continued to study the interaction of human rights and the environment, but their attention has been directed primarily at the relationship of the environment with already recognized human rights. In other words, they have concentrated not on proclaiming a new right to a healthy environment, but rather on what might be called 'greening' human rights — that is, examining and highlighting the relationship of existing human rights to the environment." 15

The fact that environmental rights as legal rights are not expressly stipulated in international human rights law does not deny its attribute as a human right. Regardless of the concept of environmental rights in international human rights law, the need to protect environmental rights is as necessary as the need to protect other basic human rights and this obligation does not disappear because it is not endowed with compulsion in law. The drafters of the seminal human rights instrument, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, did not include environmental rights. Nor, at the time, did the national constitutions to which the drafters looked for inspiration. The silence was understandable. Although humans have always known of our dependence on the environment, we have only relatively recently begun to realize how much damage our activities cause to the environment and, as a result, to ourselves. Efforts to mitigate environmental degradation are still in their infancy.16 In short, the lack of legal provisions may be due to a variety of subjective reasons, but whatever the reason, it is difficult to refuse such a right — everyone has the right to live in a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment; this is a basic right.

Owing to the establishment of environmental rights as a human right, environmental rights and the right to development are therefore equally important, conducive to strengthening the restrictive effect of environmental requirements on the development model, as well as achieving sustainable development.

Ⅲ. The Realization of the Right to Development in the Context of Environmental Rights: China’s Practice

At present, China, after its rapid development over the past nearly 40 years since the launch of reform and opening-up, is the world’s second largest economy. But due to its rapid economic development, China has paid a huge environmental cost, prompting China to conduct a profound reflection on its economic development model. There is no doubt that economic development is still the top priority in terms of the current stage of development in China. Only by developing the economy can there be sufficient material basis to realize the prosperity of the country and the well-being of the people. However, if economic activity consumes resources faster than the regeneration rate of the resources themselves and that of their alternatives, and if the amount of waste discharged into the environment exceeds the environmental self-purification capacity, it is tantamount to draining the pond to get all the fish. Therefore, economic and social development must be coordinated with environmental protection. Based on the above thinking, while endeavouring to develop the economy, China has also taken a series of measures to vigorously control and reduce its environmental pollution.

A. Political level: practicing the Scientific Outlook on Development and strictlygoverning the party in accordance with law

The Communist Party of China put forward the concept of the "scientific outlook on development" at the Third Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in 2003 and wrote it into the Party Constitution at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which was the outcome of China's reflection on its economic development model. The basic connotation of the "scientific outlook on development" forms the concept of overall, coordinated and sustainable development so as to promote overall economic, social and human development. 17 At this point, the concept of sustainable development is to promote harmony between humans and nature, achieve coordination among economic development and people, resources, and the environment, and adhere to a development path that emphasis balancing production development, a moderately well-off standard of living and good ecological environment, hence ensuring sustainable development generation after generation.18

Under the guidance of the "scientific outlook on development", in 2012, the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China put the construction of an ecological civilization into the overall "five-in-one" layout of socialism with Chinese characteristics, which requires the establishment of the idea of an ecological civilization and the integration of the concept of an ecological civilization be incorporated into all aspects of economic, political, cultural and social construction, in a bid to build a beautiful China and achieve sustainable development in China.19 In 2013, the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China proposed conducting out-of-office auditing of natural assets by the leading cadres, and establishing a life-long liability system for ecological and environmental damage.20 In 2014, the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China emphasized that the ecological environment should be protected with'a strict legal framework in accordance with the requirements of comprehensively promoting the rule of law, and a major decision-making, life-long accountability system and responsibility review mechanism should be established.21 In 2016, the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China further proposed the new concept of "adhering to innovated, coordinated, green, open, sharing development", 22 pointing out the direction for China's economic development.

Green development means to persist with the basic policy of saving resources and protecting the environment, adhering to sustainable development, firmly taking the development path of production development, and a well-off life for residents and healthy ecosystems and environment, accelerating the construction of a resource-saving and environmentally friendly society, and forming a new modernized pattern of harmonious development of man and nature, thus promoting the construction of a beautiful China.23 From the perspective of environmental factors, China's economic development should do the following: (1) Slow the pace. The environmental resources cannot bear high-speed growth as in the past. Natural resources and the environment constitute the absolute constraints on the rate of economic growth. The consumption of resources cannot grow without limits. (2) Optimize the structure. With the intensification of resource and environment constraints, industries that reduce their inputs natural resources and consume less energy will stand out. (3) Change the idea. At present, air pollution, particularly high PM2.5 levels, are of great concern to people. Despite higher incomes, clean water and clear air are luxuries. From the hope of food and clothing to that of the environment, and from the pursuit of survival to that of ecology, people's calls for green development are getting louder and louder. The only green development is sustainable development.24 China's economic development is now facing a change in the growth mode with the characteristics of a slower economic growth rate, optimized industrial structure, updated development concept and the promoting of higher quality products. At present, "green", "low carbon"," environmental protection", "recycling" and "sustainable" are becoming not only the common people's focus of attention and attitude towards life but also government officials' fixed target for performance evaluation and job promotion.

The Measures for the Accountability of Party and Government Leaders for Damage to the Ecological Environment (for Trial Implementation) issued by the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the General Office of the State Council in 2015 stipulates that "in the selection and appointment of members of the leading group of the local Party committee and government, the Party committee and the organization department shall regard resource consumption, environmental protection, ecological effect, and other information as an important content of examination and evaluation as required, and the accountable leaders causing severe damage to the ecological environment and resources may not be promoted or transferred to important positions."25 A life-long liability system for ecological environmental damage should be established. Those responsible for going against the scientific development as well as resulting in serious damage to the ecological environment and resources, regardless of whether or not they have been transferred, promoted or retired, must be strictly held accountable.26 The liabilities of the Party and government leaders for their damage to the ecological environment shall be investigated in such forms as admonishing and ordering a public apology in lighter cases actions taken by Party committees in less serious cases; as disciplinary actions taken according to the discipline of the Communist Party and government in serious cases; and where the leader subject to accountability is suspected of committing a crime, he or she shall be transferred to the judicial authority for punishment according to the law.27

In 2016, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council decided to severely handle and punish two companies after investigations, namely, the production and sales of substandard steel by Jiangsu Huada Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "Huada") and the iron and steel production facilities of Hebei Anfeng Iron and Steel Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as "Anfeng") which were constructed without receiving approval. First, Jiangsu and Hebei provinces were instructed to make a profound criticism and self-criticism to the State Council. Second, a vice-governor of Jiangsu Province received a mark on his administrative record, and a vice-governor of Hebei Province was given an administrative warning. In Jiangsu, 111 people were held accountable and 27 in Hebei. Third, Jiangsu was ordered to conduct a thorough rectification of the production and sales of its substandard steel as well as the newly increased production capacity of iron and steel and other illegal activities. Anfeng was ordered to demolish all its old blast furnaces below 1,000 cubic meters and converters under 100 tons within a definite timeframe. Fourth, the
investigation and handling of the illegal acts of Huada and Anfeng were made public nationwide. Fifth, the State Council has implemented special supervision and rectification efforts with regard to the industries with backward productivity such as coal, steel, cement and glass.28

B. Legal level: perfecting relevant legislation and conducting strict judicial control

China promulgated its first environmental protection law in 1979, and has now formed a legal system for the environmental protection and the conservation of resources, including 32 laws, 48 administrative regulations and 85 departmental rules.29 Especially in recent years, China's environmental protection legislation and law enforcement efforts have been significantly strengthened.

Article 338 of the Amendment (VIII) to the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China, which was issued by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in 2011, amended "causing major environment pollution accidents, heavy losses to public and private property, or grave consequences of personal deaths and injuries" to "whoever, in violation of the state provisions, discharges, dumps or disposes of any radioactive waste, any waste containing pathogens of any infectious disease, any poisonous substance or any other hazardous substance". This is a significant lowering of the threshold for damage to the environment being a criminal offense.

In 2014, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress revised the Environmental Protection Law the People's Republic of China issued in 1989. The provisions of the new Environmental Protection Law have been increased from the original 47 to 70. Meanwhile, the new law's enforceability and operability have been greatly enhanced, known as China's "most stringent environmental law" and "a law with teeth". The features of the new law are as follows. (1) Innovation of the ideas. Promoting an ecological civilization, and enhancing sustainable economic and social development are included in the legislative purpose; protecting the environment is a fundamental national policy of the state, giving priority to protection is considered as the first basic principle of environmental protection, coordinating economic and social development with environmental protection is highlighted — in the past, it was coordinating environmental protection with economic development, a change of the sequence indicating a major change in the idea and concept. (2) Perfection of the systems. These include the establishment of various systems, namely, environmental and resource carrying capacity monitoring and an early warning mechanism; environment and health monitoring, survey and risk assessment rules; the delineation of ecological protection red line system; an ecological compensation mechanism; an objectives responsibility system and an evaluation and review system for environmental protection; a total discharge volume control system for key pollutants; a licensing system for the discharge of pollutants; environmental monitoring rules; information disclosure and a public engagement system etc. (3) Strengthening the safeguards. With regard to the outstanding environmental protection issue of low illegal costs and high law-abiding costs, the penalties for illegal acts have been increased. Namely, relevant government departments can seize or impound any facility or equipment of any enterprise illegally discharging pollutants; in the case of economic penalties, fines for each day can be imposed, with no ceilings; the relevant liable person/s can be subject to administrative detention and in cases where the environmental damage constitutes a crime they can be held criminally responsible; a third party institution (environmental monitoring services, environmental impact assessment, operation and maintenance of pollution control facilities institutions, etc.) with joint and several liability shall be held jointly and severally liable; in those areas where the total emission reduction targets and the environmental quality improvement targets have not been completed, regional restricted approval can be implemented; concerning the pollution of the environment, destruction of the ecology and damage to the public interests, relevant social organizations can file public interest litigation.30

According to the Supreme People's Procuratorate, from June 2013 to May 2014, suspected environmental pollution crimes, and prosecuted 674 people in 346 cases, and the number of cases handled increased substantially compared to that in the same period from 2012 to 2013 when the procuratorial organs approved the arrest of 116 people in 56 cases and prosecuted 145 people in 49 cases.31 From January to November 2015, the national procuratorial organs approved the arrest of 1,340 people for suspected environmental pollution crimes.32 On July 3, 2014, the Supreme People’s Court announced the establishment of environmental resources court. Up to April 2016, 632 cases had been received, among which, 533 cases had been concluded. Since then, the court has begun to handle environmental resource administrative cases of the second instance and those applying for retrials, in which the competent department of environmental protection is the defendant.33

The above shows that China is strengthening its efforts to crack down on and punish activities that are harmful to the environment. The law is a powerful tool for reform, but the law cannot exist and function in isolation. In the field of environmental protection, the situation has to change from there must be laws to abide by to the
laws must be strictly enforced and lawbreakers must be prosecuted. China still has a long way to go in this regard. In this process, multiple factors have to work together, including the environmental protection awareness of the citizens, the industrial policy of the government, along with the social responsibility of the enterprises, among other things.

C. Social level: enhancing awareness of environmental protection to ensure the public's full participation and supervision

Public awareness, full participation and supervision of environmental protection are essential for the successful management of environmental pollution in developed countries such as Germany34, Japan35 and the United Kingdom36. To this end, it is very important to protect the public's right to know environmental information, participate in environmental decision-making and obtain relief from environmental damage.

(1) The public's right to know regarding environmental information. Technological advances enable people easier access to information, yet allow the country to have tighter control over information, while making information easy to spread among the public, thereby amplifying the danger of rumours and fake news. The public have the right to know the real state of the environment, including the right to be informed in advance of the environmental risks. It is undoubtedly a violation of human rights by the government, enterprises, research institutions, or any other person to conceal or not fully disclose crucial environmental information, especially when information that is of vital importance to people's health, well-being and even survival.37 The information should be timely, clear, understandable and available without undue financial burden to the applicant.38

(2) Public's right to participate in environmental decision-making. Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development stipulates that "environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens at the relevant level." That is, individuals can participate in decision-making that affects their environment, including participation in both specific measures and general planning, as well as in the pre-assessment of the impact of the proposed activities on the environment. People's participation in decision-making, policy formulation and activity control is one of the ways to protect the environment from all the negative effects of policy development tendency.

(3) Public's right to obtain relief from environmental damage. All persons have the right to effective remedies and redress in administrative or judicial proceedings for environmental harm or the threat of such harm,39 including the right to participate in public interest litigation to obtain effective relief from environmental damage.

In order to safeguard the realization of people's above rights, Chapter V Information Disclosure and Public Engagement is added in the Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China (2014 Revision) which states that "citizens, legal persons, and other organizations shall, according to the law, have the right to obtain environmental information and participate in and oversee environmental protection" and stipulates the following rules. Namely, the environmental protection administrative departments and other departments with environmental protection supervision and administration functions of the people's governments at all levels shall, according to the law, disclose environmental information, and improve the procedures for public engagement, to facilitate the participation in and oversight of environmental protection by the public, and disclose the names of violators to the public in a timely manner. Pollutant discharging entities under intensified supervision shall honestly disclose to the public the discharge conditions of their major pollutants, and the construction and operation of pollution prevention and control installations. For a construction project for which an environmental impact report is required by the law, when preparing such a report, the construction company shall provide an explanation to the public that may be affected, and fully solicit their opinions. After receiving the report, the relevant department shall disclose the full text of the report, except the part involving any state secret or trade secret. The public when discovering any environmental pollution or ecological damage caused by any entity or individual shall have the right to report to the related departments. For an act polluting environment or causing ecological damage in violation of public interest, a relevant social organization may file a public interest action in a people's court.40

With the empowerment granted by the new environmental law, China's civil environmental organizations have taken immediate action. In March 2015, the All-China Environment Federation took a polluting company in Dezhou, Shandong province, to court. The defendant was subject to damages of 21.98 million yuan due to excessive emissions of smoke dust, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen cyanide. The case was hailed as "the first new environmental law case of public interest litigation". 41 In January 2017, the environmental public interest lawsuit of China Environmental Protection Foundation vs. Sinochem Chongqing Fuling Chemicals Co., Ltd. was placed on file in Chongqing Third Intermediate People's Court, in which the plaintiff requested the court order the defendant to immediately stop the environmental infringement, provide compensation for the environmental costs of excessive sewage and waste gas it discharged, as well as for the service loss of the ecological environment in polluted areas during the period from damage to restoration, and apologize to the public in state-level media.42

Ⅳ. Conclusion

The traditional view of development sees human welfare as being reliant on economic growth, but ignores an obvious fact that sometimes economic growth does not necessarily bring security and happiness. On the contrary, in some cases or in some parts of the world, economic development itself is a threat to personal life, health and safety. People's well-being is the highest law.43 Historical experience and lessons make us recognize that "the human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development."44 Development is a means rather than a goal, which should be people-oriented and help mankind obtain greater security and happiness, and not put the cart before the horse by sacrificing people's security and happiness for economic development. On this account, there may be tension between development and the environment at a certain stage of economic development — the vigorous economic growth leads to environmental problems and stringent protection of the environment constrains the economic development in the short term,45 whereas in the long term, economic development and environmental protection which are mutually restricted and reinforced should have the relationship of a unity of opposites. Development will generate a final solution to environmental problems, and a good environment, in turn, promotes sustainable economic development. In terms of the ultimate goal, the development of the economy and the protection of the environment are both for the well-being of mankind.
 

(Translated by ZHONG Linyan)

* ZHANG Aining ( 张爱宁 ), professor of international law, China Foreign Affairs University.

1. Preamble to the UN Declaration on the Right to Development, 1986, para. 2.

2. Ibid., Article 1, para. 1.

3. Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, 1972, principle 8.

4. Beijing Declaration of the Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Developing Countries, 1991, para. 3.

5. Ibid., para. 6.

6. Huang Yinglong, “On Environmental Rights and Its Statutory Protection”, Human Rights Studies (vol. 2), ed. Xu Xianming (Shandong: Shandong People’s Publishing House, 2002), 405.

7. Xiao Jianming, Comparative Environmental Law (Beijing: China Procuratorate Press, 2001), 100.

8. Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, 1972, para. 4.

9. Preamble to the Human Rights and the Environment adopted by the Human Rights Council on March 18, 2016, UN. A/HRC/31/L.10.

10. In China, for example, during “Eleventh Five-Year” period, the national environmental pollution control investment is 1.4 trillion yuan, the investment growth rate of which is 66.68% compared with the investment during “Tenth Five-Year” period. During “Thirteenth Five-Year” period, environmental protection investment is expected to reach around 6 trillion to 10 trillion. www.h2o-china.com, http://www.h2o-china.com/news/232053.html, accessed February 10, 2017.

11. World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future, trans. Wang Zhijia, Ke Jinliang, et al. (Jilin: Jilin People’s Publishing House, 1997), 10.

12. Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, A/CONF.151/26 (vol. 1) (1992), principle 1.

13. Ibid., principle 4.

14. The New Delhi Declaration on Principle of International Law Relating to Sustainable Development adopted at the 70th Assembly of the International Law Association in 2002 states that “sustainable development has now been widely accepted as a global goal and its concept has been fully recognized in a variety of international and domestic laws and regulations, including international treaty laws and national case laws.” New Delhi Declaration on Principle of International Law Relating to Sustainable Development (2002), para. 1. Judge C. G. Weeramantry stressed in his separate opinion of the judgement on the case of Hungary v. Slovakia — Case Concerning the Gabcīkovo-Nagymaros Project, 1997, I.C.J., September 25, 1997, that the Principle of Sustainable Development is not merely a concept, it has been regarded as one generally-accepted principle of contemporary international law. United Nation Publications, Summaries of Judgement, Advisory Opinions and Orders of the ICJ (1997-2002), 9.

15. Report of the Independent Expert on the Issue of Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment, A/HRC/22/43(2012), para. 16.

16. Ibid., para. 7.
 

17. See Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Some Issues Concerning the Improvement of the Socialist Market Economy, October 14, 2003.

18. “Officials of Organization Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee Answer to Reporters’ Request about the Measures for the Accountability of Party and Government Leaders for Damage to the Ecological Environment (for Trial Implementation)”, accessed December 17, 2016, http://news.xinhuanet. com/politics/2015-08/17/c_1116282518.htm.

19. Hu Jintao, “Unswervingly Follow the Road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive for a Comprehensive and Well-off Society — the Report in the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China”, November 8, 2012.

20. Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Deepening the Reform of Several Major Issues, November 12, 2013.

21. Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Major Issues Pertaining to Comprehensively Promoting the Rule of Law, October 23, 2014.

22. Bulletin of the 5th Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, October 29, 2015.

23. Ibid.

24. See “China’s New Economic Position”, People’s Daily, December 14, 2016.

25. Measures for the Accountability of Party and Government Leaders for Damage to the Ecological Environment (for Trial Implementation), 2015, Article 9

26. “Xinhua Commentary: Life-long Liability Forcing the ‘Vital Few’ to Revere the Green Hills and Clear Waters”, accessed December 17, 2016, http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2015-08/17/c_1116282541.htm.

27. Measures for the Accountability of Party and Government Leaders for Damage to the Ecological Environment(for Trial Implementation), 2015, Article 10.

28. “The State Council Investigated and Handled Two Illegal Cases of Iron and Steel Enterprises, Vice-governors of Jiangsu and Hebei Provinces Were Punished”, accessed January 26, 2017, http://finance.ifeng.com/ a/20161226/15103702_0.shtml.

29. The State Council Information Office of P.R.C., The Right to Development: China’s Philosophy, Practice and Contribution (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2016), 39.

30. See the Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China (2014 Revision); See "The New Environmental Protection Law Establishes Environmental Protection as a Fundamental National Policy", accessed February 4, 2017, http://news.china.com.cn/2014-06/04/content_32567376.htm.

31. "System Guarantee of Blue Sky, Green Land and Clean Water (Reform Hotspot Face to Face) — On the Construction of Ecological Civilization System", People's Daily, September 1, 2014.

32. Sun Ying, "The Supreme People's Procuratorate: More than 1,300 People Were Arrested for Environmental Pollution Crime Last Year", accessed February 2, 2017, http://www.ce.cn/xwzx/gnsz/gdxw/201602/27/t20160227_9142944.shtml.

33. Luo Shuzhen, "Moving Forward for a Beautiful China: A Review of the Second Anniversary of the Establishment of the Environmental Resource Court of the Supreme People's Court", accessed December 27, 2016, http://www.chinacourt.org/article/detail/2016/07/id/2044527.shtml.

34. Wu Xiaoyan, "Experience and Enlightenment of Ecological Environment Management in Germany", Contemporary World and Socialism, no. 4 (2014): 92-96.

35. Hua Yi, "Pollution Management, What Did Japan Do — Interviewing the Japanese Environmental Experts Okazaki Masami", accessed January 21, 2017, http://news.sciencenet.cn/htmlnews/2016/12/363998.shtm.

36. "Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China: Management Measures of Smog in London, England and Its Enlightenment", accessed December 3, 2016, http://scitech.people.com.cn/n/2014/0303/c376843-24514293.html.

37. C.G.Weeramantry, Human Rights and Scientific and Technological Development, trans. Zhang Xinbao et al.(Beijing: Zhishi Publishing House, 1997), 238.

38. Draft Principles on Human Rights and Environment (1994), Annexes of the Final Report prepared by Mrs. Fatma Zohra Ksentini, Special Rapporteur of UN, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/9, principle 15.

39. Ibid., principle 20.

40. See the Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China (2014 Revision), Article 53-58.

41. "A Shandong Company of Long-term Excessive Pollution Emission, Environmental Protection Organizations Prosecuting Claims of 30 Million", accessed January 11, 2017, http://sd.people.com.cn/n/2015/0320/c166192-24224060.html.

42. "The Public Interest Lawsuit of China Environmental Protection Foundation v. Sinochem Chongqing Fuling Chemicals Co., Ltd.", accessed January 21, 2017, http://news.xinhuanet.com/legal/2017-01/20/c_129454825.htm.

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