China's green violators to face toughest law

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China's environmental regulators are moving to clarify their new environmental protection laws, which will take effect at the start of next year.

A new set of interpretations of the impending legislation have been issued.

They focus mostly on punishments for violators, including how much the fines will be and who can have their licenses suspended.

The new draft also urges companies to release emission-related information.

Ji Gang is with the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

He says the new environmental laws to take effect January 1st are the most stringent ones so far in China.

"For example, the provisions provide for accumulated punishments on a daily basis, meaning there will be no limit on how much fines violators of the law will face. The new law also includes provisions for the seizure of polluters' equipment. That is something we've been asking for over the past three decades."

Associate Professor Hu Jing with China's University of Political Science and Law says cumulative punishments for polluters should be effective, as many companies have simply factored 'one-off' fines into their cost of doing business.

"Under the existing regulations, for example, a polluter is fined 100-thousand yuan on a one-off basis, but their profits by continuing with their illegal emissions may exceed that. So they simply keep going. However, a daily-based cumulative punishment should make them think twice."

Environmental official Ji Gang says apart from the fines, the new interpretations of the legislation also clarify other areas.

"Article 60 of the new environment law allows inspectors to directly shut down polluting companies. We are also working with legal authorities to draft new language in the law which will allow us to limit the personal freedoms of those involved in pollution offenses. We feel this will be an effective way to deal with those who would flaunt the law for the sake of profits."

The new legal clarifications also spell out the rules connected to high-smog days.

Environmental officials are being given the power to shut down polluting industries which don't comply with requests to scale back their daily emissions on days where pollution levels are running high.

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