SCIO briefing on the work of procuratorial, judicial and public security authorities in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak

The State Council Information Office held a press conference Wednesday morning in Beijing to introduce the efforts being made by the procuratorial, judicial and public security authorities to support the resumption of work and production in accordance with the law during the COVID-19 outbreak. February 27, 2020

Legal Daily:

What role will the plea leniency system play in procuratorial organs' handling of enterprise-involved cases amid the novel coronavirus outbreak? Thanks.

Chen Guoqing:

The plea leniency system is a new criminal procedure introduced by the revised Criminal Procedure Law in 2018. It has played a decisive role in resolving social conflicts, promoting social harmony, improving procedural efficiency, and lessening the burdens on the parties involved. Under this system, criminal suspects and defendants who voluntarily confess to their criminal acts, plead guilty, and accept punishment will be granted leniency by judicial organs.

During this special period, procuratorial organs will, in accordance with the law, firmly crack down on epidemic-related crimes, which cause great harm and serious consequences. Meanwhile, we will also earnestly implement the policy of "striking a balance between leniency and severity" and the judicial principle of "fewer arrests and prudent prosecution." For cases with lesser social harms in which suspected enterprise owners and employees plead guilty, show remorse, actively compensate for losses, and eventually reach an understanding and a reconciliation, procuratorial organs shall make no unnecessary arrests and bring no unnecessary prosecutions, or submit proposals of a lighter sentence or sentence suspension to the courts according to the law. Procuratorial organs at various levels should apply the plea leniency system as much as possible to those cases that meet the requirements of the system. We should bring into full play the plea leniency system to punish crimes in a targeted and timely manner, conserve judicial resources, resolve social conflicts, and restore social order. Thank you. 

Economic Daily:

My question is on behalf of people in financial difficulty and migrant workers. If these groups are in need of legal assistance as the resumption of work and production continues, how should they get it? Will the requirements for getting legal assistance be lowered? Thank you.

Xiong Xuanguo:

General Secretary Xi Jinping made it clear that timely and effective legal assistance should be provided for people experiencing difficulties during the prevention and control of the epidemic. Recently, the Ministry of Justice issued several documents to offer guidance to judicial and administrative organs at all levels, lawyers, and volunteer legal service providers to adapt service models and provide timely and effective legal assistance for workers experiencing difficulties who are employed by enterprises that have resumed operation or production. These documents include a circular calling for the giving of full play to public legal services in the prevention and control of the epidemic; a circular that calls for the study, publicizing and implementation of the regulations on preventing employers from defaulting on migrant workers' wages and that calls for greater efforts to root out wage arrears; and a guide for lawyers to provide pro-bono legal services for enterprises that have resumed operation or production, mainly focusing on three aspects:

First, we have advocated online administration and offered guidance for workers with special requirements to access legal consultation and apply for legal assistance through online platforms such as the official website of Legal Services of China –, phone hotline service, WeChat account, and mobile app. Some provinces, such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shandong and Sichuan, instructed applicants to submit identity information and case files via WeChat. In this way, the examination and approval procedures can be completed within a day, as can the submission of case files to lawyers. Last year, the website opened a "green channel "which allows migrant workers to access help for non-payment of wages. As of Jan. 19, we have received 440 applications for legal consultation related to wage arrears of migrant workers and for consultation on demanding unpaid salary, as well as 229 complaints about problems encountered. We have responded to all of them in time. Amid the epidemic, detention houses are having difficulty arranging for duty counsels and legal aid lawyers to meet with suspects or defendants. As such, we arranged for lawyers to offer legal help and legal aid via remote video communication, phone, or utilizing the video conference function of the application, to address the problems which have emerged at this particular time.

Second, we have improved legal aid services for the public's convenience. For those who cannot submit applications online, we have adopted a reservation service allowing people to make reservations by phone or online. In emergency cases, we can provide door-to-door services. For those who must submit applications in person, we will open a green channel and simplify approval procedures to make sure that applications will be accepted and assigned on the same day. In some special cases, such as when immediate action is required to preserve the litigation and the statute of limitations is about to expire, we can offer legal aid in advance.

Third, we will appropriately relax the criteria for review of financial difficulties. When handling legal aid services related to epidemic prevention and control involved in applying for payment of labor, identifying labor relations and compensation for work-related injury, Guangdong and Shandong provinces have lowered their criteria for review of financial difficulties to the local standards for minimum wage. Those who cannot provide proof of difficulties due to the epidemic can apply with a written commitment. In view of situations where closure of enterprises, layoffs, economic losses and suspension of wages have led to difficulties for the people, we will work with other departments to establish an information-sharing and coordination mechanism to identify individuals who can be exempted from examination for financial difficulties.

Hu Kaihong:

Today's conference is hereby concluded. Thank you all.

Translated and edited by Zhu Bochen, Li Xiao, Zhang Liying, Wang Yiming, Zheng Chengqiong, Lin Liyao, Yan Xiaoqing, Wu Jin, Zhang Rui, Duan Yaying, Liu Qiang, Liu Sitong, Xiang Bin, Wang Qian, Yang Xi, Zhou Jing, Wang Wei, Zhang Junmian, Fan Junmei, Li Huiru, Wang Yanfang, Guo Xiaohong, He Shan, Jay Birbeck, Laura Zheng, David Ball. In case of any dispute over a discrepancy, the Chinese version is deemed to prevail.

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