China: A biography of Jingjing Zhang, environmental lawyer devoted in strengthening corporate transparency and accountability of Chinese investments abroad

Author: John Haffner, Haffner Group [on Carnegie Council], Published on: 11 March 2019

"Jingjing Zhang: Greening China's Globalization", 20 Feb 2019

…China has clearly benefited from international trade and investment, as well as access to global resources. The problem, says Zhang, is that China does very little to supervise and limit the negative environmental and social impacts of such projects on host countries. It is not right for China "to benefit" on such a scale "and not take responsibility," says Zhang…

…After graduation, Zhang became a lawyer for CLAPV [Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims], and then its director of litigation…In 2005, she represented more than 1,700 villagers in Fujian Province in a successful class action suit against a chemical plant that had discharged toxic substances into a river. It was China's largest ever pollution-related class action suit…In May 2018, Zhang visited Guinea…China Hongqiao Group, the world's largest aluminum producer, is part of an international consortium to increase bauxite production in Guinea…She found a need for improved communication, transparency, and environmental performance on Hongqiao's part, and a corresponding need to improve the capacity of local NGOs to deal with Chinese companies…

In July 2018, Zhang provided testimony to a local court in Ecuador. The court had shut down a Chinese mining operation in the Cajas Nature Reserve for its failure to consult with indigenous communities. The area is recognized "as a natural biosphere by UNESCO," as a vital source of community drinking water, and as home of the Kañari-Kichwa indigenous communities…Indigenous communities had never been consulted about these risks or other vital issues. In her testimony, Zhang explained that China had ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and had endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and has regulations requiring its enterprises not to violate treaties it has ratified…In August 2018, the court accepted indigenous peoples' claims and efforts, and the amicus curiae supporting them, "and upheld revocation of the mining permit."…

In November 2018, Zhang established a new organization, China Accountability Watch (CAW)…aim[ing] to strengthen corporate transparency and legal accountability in China's activities abroad…China now has only a patchwork of relevant domestic rules and regulations relating to such investments and projects, alongside its stated commitments to international norms. China…has aspirations to be a "global leader." And leadership, says Zhang, "means caring about the interests of the planet."

 

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