CHANGCHUN, Aug. 15 (Xinhua) -- Li Qijia, 58, the head of a traditional Chinese medicine hospital in Jiangyuan district, Baishan city of northeast China's Jilin Province, has stood trial for dumping polluted water in a public interest lawsuit conducted by district prosecutors.
The city intermediate court ruled in July that the hospital must stop dumping polluted water and install a proper sewage treatment facility within three months. It also ruled that it was illegal for the district health authority to issue a business license to the hospital..
"This is the first public interest case involving both civil and administrative bodies since China started to allow prosecutors to institute public interest litigations last year," said Xie Maotian, deputy procurator-general of the provincial procuratorate.
Putting both the health authority and the hospital on the same bench helped improve efficiency, said Zhang Wenkuan, chief judge of this case.
In July 2015, the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) began a two-year pilot program allowing prosecutors in 13 provincial divisions to initiate public interest litigation in cases of environmental protection, the preservation of state assets as well as food and drug safety.
Jilin was one of the trial provinces.
In early 2015, three residents who lived near the hospital reported to the local procuratorate that the hospital had been discharging untreated medical sewerage.
Prosecutors then launched an investigation that showed alarming results.
"Tests show that sewage poses a great danger to the underground water and drinking water system and may increase chances of disease," said Yan Ruiming, the prosecutor who handled the case.
Yan also found the district health authority had issued a license to the hospital despite environment rule violations.
"Filing a lawsuit is not the end. The end is to get the problems solved. Through the trials, prosecutors can push civil and administrative departments to honor their duties," said Xie Maotian.
Following the trial, prosecutors also made suggestions to provincial health departments who later launched a thorough check of environment-polluting practices of hospitals.
In China, public organizations such as NGOs are not yet strong enough to fight big institutional polluters, said Wang Xiaogang, a law professor at Jilin University.
Procurators are in the right place to push such lawsuits to defend public interests, he said.
Across the country, Chinese procuratorates filed 30 public interest lawsuits in courts by the end of June, the SPP said in July.
There were 23 cases for environmental protection-related litigation, accounting for over 76 percent of the total, the SPP added.