On December 1, 2021, the Judicial Committee of the Supreme People’s Court deliberated and issued seven decisions, including the Qin Jiaxue criminal deforestation case and its ancillary civil public interest action, as guiding cases for reference in the trial of similar cases. This article analyzes the specifics of the Qin Jiaxue case and its ancillary civil public interest action.
The Qin Jiaxue criminal deforestation case and the ancillary civil public interest action (Guiding Case No. 172)
Facts: The People’s Court of Baojing County found, during its trial, that Baojing County proclaimed in 2013 that the nature reserve area with the state-run Baiyunshan Forest Farm at its core shall become the Hunan Baiyunshan National Nature Reserve. Defendant Qin Jiaxue had contracted in 1998 a forested area in “Tudiao” (place name) in the core of the Baiyunshan Nature Reserve in Woldong Village of Mogou Town in the county, which is located within a public welfare forest area. From September 2016 through January 2017, Qin Jiaxue logged and sold the fir forest on the contracted forest landwithout a Forest Logging License. It was assessed that Qin Jiaxue cut down a total of 1010 trees with a forest stock volume of 153.3675 cubic meters. During the trial at the people’s court, per the order of the relevant departments, Qin Jiaxue prepaid a replanting and greening deposit of RMB 66,025 to guarantee the performance of the replanting and greening obligations.
Results of the adjudication: On August 3, 2018, the People’s Court of Baojing County issued the (2018)-Xiang-3125-Xing-Chu-5 Criminal and Ancillary Civil Decision, in which it found defendant Qin Jiaxue guilty of illegal logging and sentenced him to three years imprisonment and four years probation, a fine of RMB 10,000, and ordered him to plant 5,050 one-year-old fir seedlings in Tudiao of the Hunan Baiyunshan National Nature Reserve within two years after the decision came into effect with a survival rate of at least 90%.
Reasons for the adjudication: The Baiyunshan National Nature Reserve is located in the Wuling Mountains and Youshui watershed, which is one of the 17 key biodiversity areas in China. The trees contracted, planted, and managed by the defendant had been an integral and organic part of the forest resources of the Baiyunshan National Nature Reserve. The defendant’s uncontrolled logging of those trees in large volumes without a license has seriously damaged the ecological environment of the Baiyunshan National Nature Reserve, endangered biodiversity protections, and seriously undermined public interest; such conduct is of a tortious nature, and the defendant shall assume the corresponding civil and criminal liabilities. An ancillary civil public interest action is not a civil lawsuit in the traditional sense, and neither is the prosecutor in a public interest action a victim in the general sense. The request of the prosecutor in the public interest action for the defendant to be held responsible for restoring the original state of affairs is legally well-grounded and supportable. In conclusion, defendant Qin Jiaxue violated the Forest Law by indiscriminately felling a large number of trees in a public welfare forest in the core of the Baiyunshan National Nature Reserve without a license, which constitutes the crime of illegal logging. The defense that the defendant should be eligible for a lighter sentence as a first-time offender who confessed to the crime, has actively paid the replanting and greening deposit of RMB 66,025 to the court’s enforcement account and appeared to be repentent was well taken, thus resulting in the above decision.