China’s Supreme Court has set up a special tribunal for environmental cases, Beijing announced this week. Back in March, Chinese Premier Li Kequiang announced that the government was “declaring war against pollution.” But for many citizens the war hasn’t been executed with enough force. The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection itself reported in April that 20% of Chinese farm soil is polluted–taking a massive toll on the food supply.
The new tribunal will hear cases from upset citizens about pollution–in the air, soil and water. Sun Jungong, spokesman of the Supreme People’s Court, said the tribunal “will have positive and profound impact on… protecting the people’s environment rights and interests… preventing further deterioration of the environment and improving China’s international image concerning environment protection.” The furious pace of development in China has tended to run roughshod over previous attempts to curb pollution. But this time the government’s action and rhetoric seem to match the size and scope of the problem. People in the past haven’t had much opportunity to get their cases heard–powerful industrial and business concerns held overt and covert sway over the courts. The Chinese people are hoping for change.