Historic First

Eleven days before Hu Yaobang’s death on April 15, 1989, the National People’s Congress (NPC) adopted legislation that permitted Chinese citizens to sue their government. These laws created a legal channel through which citizens and organizations could bring lawsuits against administrative agencies for wrongful detention or levying of fines, suspension of business licenses, confiscation of property, restrictions on personal freedom, or government interference with management contracts. Lacking details, the Chinese legislation required amending to becoming effective; the National Committee, therefore, invited a delegation of seven Chinese legal experts — representatives of the NPC’s Administrative Legislation Research Group and the State Education Commission — responsible for drafting legislation guiding government liability to study the American system. The itinerary included stops in New York, Washington, D.C., Columbus, OH, and San Francisco. Meetings and briefings were organized with a variety of experts in the legal and legislative fields.

The delegation was particularly interested in the methods that the American legal system employs to determine appropriate monetary compensation. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Moyer explained that awards are based as much on subjective as objective factors; others talked to them about the process of post-verdict award negotiations as well as many other related issues. The knowledge gained during this study tour was integral in China’s crafting of its own administrative legislation.