The Chinese government just issued a new judicial interpretation that will allow courts to issue harsher punishments for environmental crimes, according to the Xinhua News Agency – and the death penalty could be handed down for the most serious offenses. The new interpretation comes after a series of protests by the Chinese populace over polluted air and water, chemical factories, and other development projects that have imperiled public health.

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“The Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate jointly issued the document to clarify the criteria for convictions for environmental crimes,” court spokesman Sun Jungong said, the South China Morning Post reports.

“The tightened rules were expected to help environment officials obtain harsher penalties for offenders.”

In addition to enforcing harsher punishments, the court has decreased the amount of damage a polluter must cause before facing prosecution. Previously it was necessary to cause a death in order to be considered in breach of environmental law. Now it is only necessary to cause serious injury.

Dumping radioactive substances into sources of drinking water and nature reserves, and incidents that poison more than 30 people or force more than 5,000 people to be evacuated, will be considered environmental pollution crimes for the first time,” SCMP reports.

A total of 14 environmental crimes have been listed under the new interpretation. Polluters – you have been warned!

Via Reuters, South China Morning Post

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