With Legal System Overwhelmed, China Uses Mediation

With Legal System Overwhelmed, China Uses Mediation
February 21, 2008 (NEW YORK) -- With China’s vast legal system often overwhelmed and under-funded, citizens are often relying on grassroots mediation committees to settle small disputes. Professor Peng Xihua of China’s Zhongnan University of Economics and Law explained the history and importance of these People’s Mediation Committees (PMCs) to students and faculty at a lunch talk On February 20, organized by Columbia Law School’s Center for Chinese Legal Studies.
Though PMCs were created by the Chinese government in the 1950s, grassroots mediation has a 1,000-year history in China, Peng said. Today, they handle between 10- and 20-  million cases per year, ranging from familial conflicts to minor property disputes. Ideally, the three- to nine-person committees who arbitrate would be chosen primarily by local communities, but in actuality government officials typically make the appointments, Peng said.
Chinese citizens are not forced to use the PMCs and can bypass them for the courts. But since the committees are tasked with settling matters in no longer than a month, PMCs can be an efficient way to administer justice.  Judgments also can also be appealed to the courts.
China will continue to rely on PMCs, Peng said, adding that he hopes they achieve greater independence from government meddling and that arbitrators become better trained in Chinese law.