International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

Case Studies


Environmental Crime Legal Framework in China

    The Constitution of the People's Republic of China states: ''The state protects and improves the living environment and the ecological environment, and prevents and remedies pollution and other public hazards.” Accordingly, the Chinese state ensures the “rational use of natural resources and protects rare animals and plants. The appropriation or damage of natural resources by any organization or individual by whatever means is prohibited.''

    The 1979 Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China is the cardinal law for environmental protection in China. The law establishes the basic principles for coordinated development between economic construction, social progress and environmental protection.

    China has ecology and environment authorities at and above the county level, along with environmental supervision institutions. Other departments in charge of environmental protection include:

  • Natural resource departments
  • Urban-rural construction and development departments
  • Water resources departments
  • Agriculture and rural affairs departments
  • Industry and information technology departments
  • Market supervision and management departments
  • Transportation departments
  • Public security departments

Featured Legislation

1982: The Marine Environment Protection Law was adopted in order to protect marine environment and resources, prevent pollution damage, maintain ecological balance, safeguard human health and promote the development of marine programs.

1984: The Law on Prevention and Control of Water Pollution was passed to ensure all entities and individuals prevent soil pollution, and will be held accountable for damage caused.

1985: Grassland Law of the People’s Republic of China was tabled. This Law is enacted with a view to improving the protection, management and development of grasslands and to ensure their rational use; to protect and improve the ecological environment, to modernize animal husbandry; and to enhance the prosperity of the local economies of the national autonomous areas. This Law shall be applicable to all grasslands within the territory of China, including hills and lands covered with grass. The department of farming and animal husbandry under the State Council shall be in charge of national administration of grasslands. The departments of farming and animal husbandry of the local people’s governments at the county level and above shall be in charge of administration of grasslands in their respective administrative areas. Grasslands under ownership by “the whole people" may be assigned to collectives for long-term use. These grasslands, those under collective ownership, and those under ownership by the whole people that are assigned to collectives for long-term use, may be contracted by collectives or individuals for purposes of animal husbandry. The local people’s governments at various levels shall be responsible for conducting general surveys of grassland resources within their respective administrative areas and formulating plans for the development of animal husbandry. Strict measures shall be adopted to protect grassland from pollution, soil erosion and land reclamation. Local authorities shall take measures to combat grassland pests and mice that damage grasslands and protect beneficial animals and birds that feed on pests and mice. They shall take measures to prevent and treat endemic diseases among livestock and diseases. Hunters of wild animals on the grasslands shall be required to strictly observe the regulations of the local people’s governments concerning the prevention of epidemic diseases.

1984: The Forestry Law of The People’s Republic of China was presented. This Law is formulated for the purpose of protecting, cultivating and rationally utilizing forest resources in China, speeding up afforestation of the land, giving full play to the forests’ role of conserving water and soil, moderating the climate, improving the environment and providing forest products, so as to meet the needs of socialist construction and the people’s life. It consists of 7 chapters: I. General Provisions II. Forest Management and Administration III. Forest Protection IV. Tree Planting and Afforestation V. Forest Tree Cutting VI. Legal Liability VII. Supplementary Provisions.

1986: The Fisheries Law was signed with the purpose of enhancing the protection, increase, development and rational utilization of fishery resources.

1986: The Mineral Resources Law was approved, governing extraction from mines in China and the registration of mining rights.

1988: the Law on the Protection of Wildlife was enacted, formalizing a permitting system under which protected wildlife may be traded commercially and consumed.

1995: The Law on Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste was introduced, prohibiting the import, dumping and disposal of both solid waste and hazardous waste.

2003: The Law on Prevention and Control of Radioactive Pollution was drafted to prevent and control radioactive pollution, protect the environment, ensure human health and promote the development and peaceful use of nuclear energy and technology.

2005: The Stock-breeding Law of the People’s Republic of China was ratified. The purpose of this Law is to regulate the production and business operations of stockbreeding. The Law consists of 8 Chapters divided into 74 articles: General provisions (I); Protection of the genetic resources of livestock and poultry (II); Selection, production and business operation of species of breeding livestock and poultry (III); Breeding of livestock and poultry (IV); Transactions and transport of livestock and poultry (V); Quality and safety guarantee (VI); Legal liabilities (VII); Supplementary provisions (VIII). A National Commission for the Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources shall be established by the stockbreeding and veterinary administrative department of the State Council and shall be responsible for the appraisal and evaluation of genetic resources of livestock and poultry. A permit for the production and business operation of breeding livestock and poultry, and of ova, frozen sperms, embryos and other genetic materials shall be obtained as specified in articles 22 to 25. The State Council and the provincial people’s governments shall arrange the fine breed subsidies and other funds for supporting the stockbreeding development, to support the livestock and poultry breeders to buy fine breeds of livestock and poultry, improve the production facilities, expand the breeding scale, etc. The transport of livestock and poultry shall meet the animal disease prevention requirements. A stockbreeding and veterinary administrative department shall make a plan on the supervision and inspection over the quality and safety of livestock and poultry.

2008: The Law on Promotion of Circular Economy was created for the purposes of facilitating a circular economy, raising resource utilization rate, protecting and improving the environment and realizing sustainable development.

2009: The Law on the Protection of Offshore Islands was created for the purposes of protecting the ecosystem of offshore islands and their surrounding waters, rationally developing and utilizing the natural resources of offshore islands, safeguarding national maritime rights and interests as well as promoting sustainable economic and social development.

2020: The Biosecurity Law of the People’s Republic of China was presented. This Law is enacted for the purposes of maintaining national security, preventing and responding to biosecurity risks, safeguarding the lives and health of the people, protecting biological resources and the ecology and environment, promoting the sound development of biotechnology, boosting the construction of a community with a shared future for mankind, and achieving the harmonious coexistence of man and nature. The Law consists of 10 Chapters: General Provisions; Biosecurity Risk Prevention and Control System; Prevention and Control of Major New or Sudden Outbreaks of Infectious Diseases and Epidemics in Animals and Plants; Security of Biotechnology Research, Development, and Application; Biosecurity of Pathogenic Microbe Laboratories; Security of Human Genetic Resources and Biological Resources; Prevention of Bioterrorism and Biological Weapon Threats; Biosecurity Capacity Building; Legal Liability; Supplemental Provisions.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • In 2018: Chinese officials recorded 15,095 arrests linked to environmental crimes, a 51.5 percent increase from a year earlier. The nation has been trying to make better use of its law enforcement and judicial authorities in an attempt to mitigate damage done to its skies, soil and water because of decades of breakneck economic growth. 2018 also featured an uptick in environmental crime prosecutions, with 42,195 people being prosecuted for a range of environmental offences such as illegal deforestation and land occupation, as well as unlawful mining and fishing activities. The Chinese government approaches environmental protection with the aim of repairing social relations, restoring environmental damage and demonstrating a favorable course of development. Beijing is in the process of establishing dedicated environmental divisions, and other regulatory bodies to play a more active role in punishing polluters and this is evident in the 15.28 billion yuan ($2.26 billion) in fines meted out for environmental offences in 2018.
  • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported a rise in the detection of the illegal wildlife trade in East and Southeast Asia in 2019. This marks the highest recorded seizure of smuggled endangered species, with Singapore intercepting more than 25 tons of African pangolin scale in April; Viet Nam seizing a shipment of more than 9 tons of African ivory in March; and a number of other large-scale seizures in China and Hong Kong. International organizations and representatives of customs and law enforcement agencies held a conference in Shenzen, China in November 2019 to discuss Operation Thunderball, an initiative facilitated by the World Customs Organization and INTERPOL.  Operation Thunderball involves more than 100 countries and focuses on going beyond seizures, following financial trails and adopting special investigative techniques to identify, investigate and dismantle transnational organized groups behind human trafficking, wildlife trafficking, drug trafficking, or serious economic crimes including corruption and money laundering.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the People’s Republic of China: