Chinese Lawmaker Demands Equal Death Compensation

The lives of China's urban residents are worth much more than those of rural residents, but the inequality is expected to be rectified this year as the Supreme People's Court has promised to revise relevant law interpretations.

"I have received a reply from the Supreme People's Court which said the issue might be resolved this year," said Zhang Li, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.

For two consecutive years, Zhang has submitted the same motion to the NPC on abolishing discriminatory compensation standards for the deaths of urban or rural residents. It seems his insistence has paid off.

Zhang cited a traffic accident taking place on December 15, 2005, in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. He Yuan, a 14-year- old girl, and two friends went to school on a tricycle. A truck hit the tricycle and killed them all.

The parents of He Yuan were angered to learn that they could only get some 50,000 yuan (US$6,250) of compensation while the families of the other two girls received more than 200, 000 yuan respectively.

Such a court ruling was based on the interpretations of personal injury cases issued by the Supreme People's Court on December 4, 2003. The interpretations stipulate that death compensation should be 20 times the average annual disposable income of urban residents of the previous year or 20 times the average annual per capita net income of rural residents in that area.

Official statistics show that in 2005 the per capita disposable income of China's urban residents was 10,493 yuan and rural per capita net income was 3,255 yuan.

"The interpretations go against the principle enshrined in the Constitution that all citizens are equal before the law," said Zhang.

"The difference in compensation denotes discrimination against rural people," he said. "Such interpretations must be amended."

Zhang submitted a motion to the NPC annual session on revising the interpretations last year, and was replied that "the issue is under deliberation." He rewrote his motion and submitted it again to the NPC session this year.

Zhang has won the support of some other NPC deputies and members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body. They also called on judicial departments to ponder the issue and remove the wide gap of compensation standards in personal injury cases.

"The issue is expected to be addressed this year," Zhang quoted a recent reply from the Supreme People's Court as saying.

(Xinhua News Agency March 11, 2006)

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