Under the Civil Procedure Law of the P.R.C.
("CPL"), Articles 53-56 of the current
CPL define requirements for filing a "joint litigation",
including those suits where said joint litigation may involve
"one party with numerous litigants". 1 To this
latter scenario, Article 55 of the CPL notes that where "one
of the parties has numerous litigants, but the exact number of
litigants is uncertain when the lawsuit is filed, the People's
Court may issue a public notice to explain the nature of the case
and the claims of the litigation and inform those persons who are
entitled to the claim to register their rights with the
People's Court within a fixed time period." 2
Article 55 goes on to provide that the litigants may elect
"representatives" and further defines the binding nature
of the Court's ruling on not only the
"representative", but upon all litigants. 3
Finally, Article 56 of the CPL defines a third party right to join
the litigation when said party has an independent claim to the
subject matter or that the outcome of the litigation may impact the
party's legal interests. 4
Further to whether standing is afforded the Plaintiff, Article
108 of the CPL provides that "[t]he plaintiff must be a
citizen, legal person, or an organization having a direct interest
with the case". 5 In short, Articles 53-56 and 108
of the CPL provide a framework which allows for what is referred to
in certain overseas courts, such as those of the United States, as
One of the issues with the current view of the P.R.C. courts in
regards to which entities have standing to bring such
"class-action lawsuits" under the CPL, relates to lack of
clarity on whether certain "non-governmental
organizations" ("NGOs"), such as a
private, non-commercial enterprise, would have such standing to
bring such a suit before a P.R.C. court. There have been to date,
class-action suits brought in P.R.C. courts by certain entities in
order to protect the public interest with respect to environmental
safety and food safety. However, there have been no clear rules in
the CPL which afford standing in such suits to NGOs/private,
non-commercial enterprises, though allowing standing for
governmental organizations and "Social Groups", the
latter as when duly registered and "affiliated to an
administrative organ in most cases, a government agency".
It has been reported that the coming Amendment to the CPL, which
would come into effect on January 1, 2013, would provide for
"related organizations" to have standing in such suits
where the public health and/or public safety is at risk.
7 As such, from said reports it appears that certain
NGOs and private non-commercial enterprises may qualify as
"related organizations" and, as appropriate to the facts
of the case, then be deemed to have standing to bring suit in the
public interest in the P.R.C. in such environmental/public
safety-related class-action suits. Though the term "related
organization" is still rather vague in nature and, as such,
allowing the Courts certain discretion in determining whether the
organization at issue is indeed representing the public interest
and having a "direct interest" in the case, the reported
amendment does appear to provide a broader range of plaintiffs
eligible to bring "class action"-type suits in
environmental protection and food safety cases, which may
ultimately help lead to better protection of the environment of the
P.R.C. and, also, better protection of the Chinese consumer.
1Civil Procedure Law of the P.R.C.,
adopted April 9 1991, amended October 28, 2007,Articles
53-56. 2Id. at Art. 55. 3Id. 4Supra 1, at Art. 56. 5Supra 1, at Art. 108. 6 Zhang Yinan, China Daily, "More groups
can litigate in public interest", September 1, 2012, pg.
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