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International Students at Chaoyang District People's Court
Last Modified:  2011-11-17 11:00:12
Each day judges at Chaoyang District People's Court hear between four to five cases related to labour disputes. Fifty per cent are from farmers who come to find work in Beijing. Two facts ten international students taking CESL's "Chinese Law Taught in English" programme learned in a question and answer session with the judge whilst on a visit to the Court on November 15, 2011.

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International students, accompanied by Professor Hao Qian, heard a civil dispute between a migrant labourer and a security services company. The plaintiff claimed that he had been dismissed by his employer before the end of his contract, that he was not paid compensation for lost earnings, had never been paid overtime, had never been given annual leave or compensated for working, nor had contributions been paid on his behalf to the social security, pension, or unemployment funds.

The company counter-claimed that the terms of plaintiff's contract meant he was not paid overtime; that he had taken annual leave each year since it became a statutory requirement; and that he had resigned so was not entitled for compensation for lost earnings.

The case had previously been heard by the Chaoyang District Labour Dispute Arbitration Commission, which found in favour of the defendant in all aspects, except the demand for compensation for failing to pay contributions to the social security, pension and unemployment funds.

The plaintiff appealed the Arbitration Commission's ruling, based on the allegation that his signature on resignation certificate had been forged by his employer. Prior to the hearing, students had been given a summary of the arbitration award and the complaint. The hearing itself was brief, and the judge accepted the plaintiff’s request that there be verification of the authenticity of the signature.

Following the hearing students were given the opportunity to ask questions. Claudia Zuniga asked whether the court was responsible for verifying the signature or could the parties employ experts.
Justice Chen replied that authenticating signatures required scientific skills. The court would undertake verification by randomly selecting a court approved institution, after an application was received.

Zuniga further asked that if the signature had been forged, would the employer be punished?
Justice Chen replied that the evidence would be disregarded and that there would be no punishment. Of course, the fees for verifying the signature would be borne by the employer.

Paola Pasquali asked the remedy if employers do not make contributions for social security, unemployment and pensions.
Justice Chen explained that the current practice in Beijing is in accordance with government policy on social security. This means that if a person works in Beijing for fifteen years and pays all necessary contributions they are entitled to receive a pension when they reach the retirement age. Workers can collect the pension anywhere in China and the record of years worked is transferable. However, in Beijing it is not possible to make up for an employer’s failure to pay contributions retrospectively. Courts can only award damages.

Sebastian Velasco asked if the courts provided help for disadvantaged groups?
Justice Chen replied that the courts do not appoint lawyers, however, the government offers assistance, and many plaintiffs received legal aid and have government appointed lawyers.

Klaudia Hammami asked if parties had to be present at the hearing, as in Germany, although it is not a requirement, they normally are.
Justice Chen replied that normally in civil cases parties were not required to appear, only their legal representative; however, in divorce and criminal proceedings parties must be present.

Students will also hear a criminal trial at the Changping District People's Court.