China's top legislature expanded on Friday the number and type of entities permitted to file class-action lawsuits, ending a heated debate on who has the right to defend the public interest by bringing a litigation to court.
Government agencies and related organizations are allowed to file class-action lawsuits, in which a group of people collectively bring a litigation concerning environmental pollution and unsafe food incidents to court to defend the public interest, the Amendment to the Civil Procedure Law states.
The amendment marks a step forward from the draft proposed to lawmakers on Monday, which empowered only social groups and government agencies to file class actions.
"Related organizations," as detailed in Friday’s version of the law, covers a larger range of societies than the so-called social groups, said Wang Shengming, a lawmaker from the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.
In China, a "social group" refers to a particular type of organization that has completely different registration and management procedures than other kinds of social organizations, such as private non-enterprise entities and NGOs, according to the country’s Regulation on the Registration and Management of Social Groups.
A social group, the regulation said, should be registered at the Ministry of Civil Affairs and be affiliated to an administrative organ, in most cases, a government agency.
Wang said statistics showed that among the total 460,000 social organizations registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs by 2011, about 250,000 of them are social groups, while the rest are private non-enterprises and foundations.
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