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The China Law Center Co-Hosts Two Workshops on Administrative Dispute Resolution

The China Law Center co-hosted two workshops on administrative dispute resolution from July 23-25, 2007 in Beijing.  The workshop on July 23 was jointly sponsored with the Administrative Law Research Center of China’s National School of Administration (CNSA).  On July 24 and 25, the China Law Center co-hosted a workshop with the Office of Legislative Affairs of the Beijing Municipal People’s Government.

China’s leaders have identified improvement of the administrative dispute resolution system as a top priority in their drive to improve the legal system, reduce burdens on the country’s courts, and maintain social stability.  Each year, some 80,000 cases are handled in China’s administrative reconsideration system, through which citizens can appeal government agency decisions to a higher-level agency for reconsideration.  By way of comparison, slightly more than 90,000 administrative litigation cases are handled in the people’s courts, and some 10 million complaints are pursued through the traditional “letters and visits” (xinfang) system, annually.  The Beijing workshops compared how disputes between administrative agencies and citizens are resolved in the United States and China and how the U.S. experience and relevant institutional designs, particularly the greater use of mediation and face-to-face hearings, as well as arrangements to ensure the stature and relative independence of the adjudicators, might be useful as China considers ways to improve and further develop its administrative reconsideration process.

Judge John Vittone describes the way in which the U.S. Department of Labor handles administrative appeals

Each workshop brought together over thirty leading Chinese experts and officials representing key government departments.  The delegation of foreign experts included Janice Deshais, Director of the Office of Adjudications for the Connecticut State Department of Environmental Protection; Jeffrey Lubbers, who teaches administrative law at American University's Washington College of Law; John Vittone, Chief Administrative Law Judge for the Department of Labor; and China Law Center Deputy Director Jamie P. Horsley. 

Over the course of the three days, Chinese experts noted that, while administrative reconsideration in China is intended both to supervise the exercise of government power and protect the rights and interests of citizens, it is unclear which goal takes priority.  Chinese scholars observed that improving the administrative reconsideration (“AR”) system would require greater independence of the adjudicators and greater transparency in the process. 

China Law Center Deputy Director Jamie P. Horsley summarizes some of the suggestions for improving China’s administrative reconsideration system discussed during the workshop

The second workshop—with judges and government officials from all levels of government in Beijing Municipality who are experimenting with improvements to the AR system through better procedures for case acceptance, greater use of mediation and hearings, as well as upgrading the professionalism of AR personnel—included a visit to the administrative reconsideration reception office in Haidian District.  There, the foreign experts met with members of the Haidian District Office of Legislative Affairs to discuss recent cases and visit their hearing room. 

For Chinese coverage of the workshop, see the Beijing Office of Legislative Affairs Website.

Workshop participants on the steps of the Haidian District Government in Beijing