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Relatives of Air Crash Victims Challenge Compensation Rule

Seventeen relatives of people killed during an airline crash in November, 2004 are asking the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to review a law that limits the amount of compensation an airline must pay for a fatal accident.


The law, command No. 132, was issued by the State Council in 1993. It states that the maximum compensation for each passenger in civil airline crash is 70,000 yuan (US$8,642).


The relatives and their lawyer say that law goes against higher level pieces of legislation - the Civil Aviation Law and the Legislation Law.


The family members have sent a letter to the Standing Committee asking it to review the law. The letter is the first such request since the NPC passed two procedures about examining regulations and judicial explanations on December 16.


According to the two procedures, organizations and citizens that think a certain rule or judicial explanation goes against the Constitution or superior laws can ask the Standing Committee to review the legality of the rule or explanation.


On November 21, 2004, China Eastern Airlines flight MU5210 from Baotou in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to Shanghai crashed less than one minute after taking off. All 48 passengers on board were killed.


Shanghai-based China Eastern has offered the relatives twice the maximum compensation set in the controversial law.


"The standard is too low compared with the current living standards. Besides, it went against the relevant law when the command was first issued," said Zhao Xiaoluo, the lawyer for the 17 family members, who come from Baotou, Shanghai and other cities.


Zhao said the Civil Aviation Law that enacted in 1996 stipulates the maximum compensation level for civil air disaster should be drafted by the aviation administration and go into effect after it is approved by the State Council.


"The law makes it clear that only the aviation administration has the right to set the compensation standard but the administration didn't set any standards after the law was enacted," Zhao said, adding that the rule issued by the State Council can't be considered proper.


(Shanghai Daily December 28, 2005)


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