Chinese environmental lawyer talks about evolving landscape surrounding high-profile Chinese overseas investment cases

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20 January 2020

Chinese environmental lawyer talks about evolving landscape surrounding high-profile Chinese overseas investment cases

Author: Ma Tianjie, China Dialogue

“How does 2020 bode for China’s overseas investment? A Chinese lawyer’s take”, 17 January 2020

… Zhang Jingjing… is one of the few Chinese lawyers on the overseas investment scene who stands side by side with affected communities… over the past few years her nascent legal initiative, the Transnational Environmental Accountability Project, has been involved in a number of legal battles centring on China-related overseas projects. In one of those cases, her amicus curiae brief, delivered for the first time by a Chinese environmental lawyer at an Ecuadorian court in Cuenca, played an unprecedented role in bringing about a historic court order to suspend mining activities at a gold mine operated by Chinese mining company Junefield…

A few Latin American countries, including Peru, have enshrined indigenous rights in their constitutions, particularly the right to be informed and consulted before projects like this can go ahead [Free, Prior and Informed Consent, FPIC]. It is therefore unsurprising that local groups are now challenging the EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment] for lack of prior consultation with indigenous people and have sent the case all the way to the Supreme Court in Lima.

None of the legal actions are directly targeting the Chinese company. Rather, their objective is to revert administrative approvals and decisions made by host country authorities. If those challenges are successful, they will invariably delay the progress of the project and bring losses to the developers. This is a prospect that Chinese investors in the region should be aware of…

A tidal wave of “climate litigation” is coming. Kenya’s Lamu power plant case, in which Chinese companies are deeply involved, is but one outstanding example of how a combination of lively civil society and an independent judiciary can become a formidable obstacle for environmentally questionable projects.

Globally, with climate change becoming an increasingly urgent concern, climate litigation is set to become more commonly used by communities and activists to challenge not only coal power but also government policies allowing such projects…

In transboundary cases, it is a commonly accepted principle to give host countries jurisdiction over lawsuits on environmental and social impacts. This is because their judiciary can more easily ascertain facts concerning damages and infringements on their native ground.

This doesn’t mean China’s regulatory regime has no role to play in injecting responsibility into its overseas investments. In fact, a host of policy items have been promulgated to steer outbound investment towards a more sustainable path… China does need to install higher level outbound investment laws and regulations to introduce accountability to its companies going global.

What is really encouraging is that at the end of 2019, China’s Supreme People’s Court issued a groundbreaking opinion on how the judiciary system should support the Belt and Road Initiative, stating that China should “proactively contribute its judicial resources to global environmental governance”. More specifically, it calls on the Chinese judiciary to strengthen environmental public interest litigation and tort litigation to “stop environmental violation” and “enforce liability for damages”.

If these words are meant genuinely, the opinion in effect opens the doors of Chinese courts to environmental public interest litigation and tort cases on damages happening outside China’s borders, particularly along the Belt and Road. China’s judicial resources, and its experience with trying domestic environmental disputes, are now accessible by communities affected by Chinese investments in countries with underdeveloped environmental governance…

[Also refers to SMB, Winning Shipping, Shandong Weiqiao Group and Yantai Port Group, Chinalco, Henan International Mining, International Finance Group, Sinohydro]

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Author: 马天杰,中外对话

“环境律师谈2020年中国海外投资的绿色挑战”, 2020年1月17日

… 张兢兢… 在海外投资领域… 是为数不多站在受影响社区一方的中国律师之一… 她在过去几年里发起了一项名为“跨国环境责任项目”的法律行动,参与了一系列中国海外投资相关的案例。在其中一起案件里,她的非当事人意见陈述发挥了前所未有的作用,促使厄瓜多尔法庭下令暂停中国矿业公司庄胜集团运营的一座金矿的采矿活动,这是中国环境律师首次在厄瓜多尔昆卡的法院出庭…

包括秘鲁在内的几个拉丁美洲国家已经将土著居民的权利纳入宪法,特别是这类项目在开工之前的知情权和征询权(自由、事先和知情同意,FPIC)。因此,当地团体现在质疑EIA没有事先与土著人进行协商,并将官司一路打到利马最高法院,也就不足为奇了。

这些法律行动都没有直接以这家中国公司为目标。相反,它们的目标是改变东道国当局作出的行政批准和决定。如果这些行动取得成功,将不可避免地延迟项目进展,并给开发商造成损失。该地区所有中国投资者都应该对这样的前景有所意识…

“气候诉讼”的浪潮即将来临。中国企业深度参与的肯尼亚拉姆电站案,不过是一个突出的例子,由此可以看出,如果项目存在环境问题,那么活跃的民间组织和独立的司法体系就会成为它的巨大障碍。

随着气候变化成为一个日益紧迫的全球问题,社区和活动人士将越来越多地以气候诉讼为手段,向煤电项目,以及允许此类项目的政府政策发起挑战…

在跨国案件中,给予东道国对有关环境和社会影响的诉讼管辖权是一项普遍接受的原则。这是因为它们的司法机构可以更容易地查明在本国土地上发生的损害赔偿和侵犯事实。

这并不意味着中国的监管制度在加强其海外投资所肩负的相关责任方面没有作用。事实上,中国已经出台了一系列政策,引导对外投资走上更加可持续的道路… 中国确实需要制定更高级别的对外投资法律法规,引入针对外向型企业的问责制。

真正令人鼓舞的是,2019年底,中国最高人民法院就司法体系如何支持“一带一路”倡议发表了开创性意见(《一带一路意见二》,简称《意见》),指出中国应“积极为全球环境治理贡献司法资源”。更具体地说,它呼吁中国司法机关加强环境公益诉讼和侵权诉讼,以“制止环境违法”和“执行损害赔偿责任”。

如果这些意图是真实的,那么《意见》实际上是打开了中国法院受理境外,特别是“一带一路”沿线发生的环境公益诉讼和侵权案件的大门。中国的司法资源和处理国内环境纠纷的经验现在可以被环境治理不发达的国家中那些受中国投资影响的社区所用…

【文章提及中国赢联盟博凯矿业公司,韦立航运公司,山东魏桥集团,烟台港集,中铝, 河南国际矿业公司,国际金融公司,中国水电】

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Author: 马天杰,中外对话

“环境律师谈2020年中国海外投资的绿色挑战”, 2020年1月17日

… 张兢兢… 在海外投资领域… 是为数不多站在受影响社区一方的中国律师之一… 她在过去几年里发起了一项名为“跨国环境责任项目”的法律行动,参与了一系列中国海外投资相关的案例。在其中一起案件里,她的非当事人意见陈述发挥了前所未有的作用,促使厄瓜多尔法庭下令暂停中国矿业公司庄胜集团运营的一座金矿的采矿活动,这是中国环境律师首次在厄瓜多尔昆卡的法院出庭…

包括秘鲁在内的几个拉丁美洲国家已经将土著居民的权利纳入宪法,特别是这类项目在开工之前的知情权和征询权(自由、事先和知情同意,FPIC)。因此,当地团体现在质疑EIA没有事先与土著人进行协商,并将官司一路打到利马最高法院,也就不足为奇了。

这些法律行动都没有直接以这家中国公司为目标。相反,它们的目标是改变东道国当局作出的行政批准和决定。如果这些行动取得成功,将不可避免地延迟项目进展,并给开发商造成损失。该地区所有中国投资者都应该对这样的前景有所意识…

“气候诉讼”的浪潮即将来临。中国企业深度参与的肯尼亚拉姆电站案,不过是一个突出的例子,由此可以看出,如果项目存在环境问题,那么活跃的民间组织和独立的司法体系就会成为它的巨大障碍。

随着气候变化成为一个日益紧迫的全球问题,社区和活动人士将越来越多地以气候诉讼为手段,向煤电项目,以及允许此类项目的政府政策发起挑战…

在跨国案件中,给予东道国对有关环境和社会影响的诉讼管辖权是一项普遍接受的原则。这是因为它们的司法机构可以更容易地查明在本国土地上发生的损害赔偿和侵犯事实。

这并不意味着中国的监管制度在加强其海外投资所肩负的相关责任方面没有作用。事实上,中国已经出台了一系列政策,引导对外投资走上更加可持续的道路… 中国确实需要制定更高级别的对外投资法律法规,引入针对外向型企业的问责制。

真正令人鼓舞的是,2019年底,中国最高人民法院就司法体系如何支持“一带一路”倡议发表了开创性意见(《一带一路意见二》,简称《意见》),指出中国应“积极为全球环境治理贡献司法资源”。更具体地说,它呼吁中国司法机关加强环境公益诉讼和侵权诉讼,以“制止环境违法”和“执行损害赔偿责任”。

如果这些意图是真实的,那么《意见》实际上是打开了中国法院受理境外,特别是“一带一路”沿线发生的环境公益诉讼和侵权案件的大门。中国的司法资源和处理国内环境纠纷的经验现在可以被环境治理不发达的国家中那些受中国投资影响的社区所用…

【文章提及中国赢联盟博凯矿业公司,韦立航运公司,山东魏桥集团,烟台港集,中铝, 河南国际矿业公司,国际金融公司,中国水电】

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