China specifies standards for crimes of destroying forest resources

Chinese courts resolved a total of 64,788 criminal cases related to the destruction of forest resources between 2018 and 2022, rendering judgments for 82,704 individuals.

These legal endeavors reflect China's commitment to fortifying the protection of its forest resources, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) said on Monday.

In response to emerging challenges in judicial practice, the SPC has released judicial interpretations of the trialing of criminal cases related to the destruction of forest resources, providing guidelines for the determination of convictions, setting sentencing standards for offenses, and addressing pertinent legal application issues. 

According to the interpretations, the destruction of key protected plants, illegal logging and deforestation, and the illicit occupation of forest lands are all recognized as crimes of destroying forest resources.

The key protected plants in the interpretations include not only the plants under national protection, but also precious trees and trees over 100 years old that are not listed in the list of national protected plants.

Destroying one wild plant under national first-class protection or the standing volume (the amount of merchantable wood in cubic meters in a tree, an area of woodland or forest) of more than one cubic meter, and destroying two wild plants under national second-class protection or the standing volume of more than two cubic meters, are both recognized as crimes.

Also, the judicial interpretations say that engaging in the illegal occupation and destruction of public-benefit forest lands exceeding 0.33 hectares or commercial forest lands exceeding 0.66 hectares are criminal offenses. Illegal logging of trees in national parks and national nature reserves will be punished with heavier penalties since it does more serious damage to forest resources than illegal logging in other places.

Specifically, the judicial interpretations state that repairing the ecological environment actively by replanting trees and restoring vegetation will be an important consideration for leniency of the sentence. 

(With input from Xinhua)

(Cover: Logger saws a fallen tree. /CFP)

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