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Use of litigant's native language denied in Chinese civil court



Xin Hua News, Inner Mongolia

February 10, 2004

By Correspondents Soyol and Wen Hong

English translation by SMHRIC

Last year, Yu Bao-shan, a herder from Dalai Sum, Sunid Left Banner, Shiliin-gol League, Inner Mongolia, filed a lawsuit against his attorney for malfeasance. When the case came to court, Yu Bao-shan’s request to use a Mongolian language interpreter was denied and he was forced to use the Chinese language in court despite the fact that he has a poor command of the Chinese language. In the expected ensuing confusion, he lost the case.

Yu Bao-shan told the Xin Hua correspondents the following details surrounding the case. In early September 1996, he was sued in the court of Chi-feng City Ar-horchin Banner by the Chi-feng City Lian Yi Trade Company for an alleged “fraudulent contract and debt bill”. Yu Bao-shan then retained Dai Qin who was an attorney in the Shiliin-gol League Sunid Left Banner Law Firm as his attorney. Due to various acts of malfeasance on Dai Qin’s part, the trial was started four times before the plaintiffs were awarded a 360,000 Yuan (approximately 45,000 USD) judgment against Yu. In addition, Dai Qin charged 14,900 Yuan (approximately 1,800 USD) as a retainer and 19,000 Yuan (approximately 2,300 USD) for entertainment allowance. Yu claims that Dai Qin failed to adequately express his wishes during the trial, withdrew his objections to the court’s jurisdiction over the case and failed to bring about counter-claims of fraud against the plaintiffs as he had committed to at the time he accepted the case. Yu also claims that Dai Qin discouraged the local police from investigating potential suspects in the fraud case.

On December 1, 2002, Yu Bao-shan sued Dai Qin and his law firm for malfeasance in the above case. On September 5, 2003, the Civil Court of Sunid Left Banner heard the case. Yu’s request for either a Chinese interpreter or permission to allow him to find his own Chinese interpreter was denied. Since the proceedings were carried out completely in Chinese, Yu was not able to understand the discussions nor could he personally defend himself. At the end of the trial, Yu made his objections in Mongolian but the court ignored him. He was not aware that he had already lost the case until the Mongolian version of the court decision was delivered to him. He said, “I am a herder and I can’t speak Chinese but the court did not allow me to find my own interpreter. I really did not have any chance to speak before the court.”

When the Xin Hua correspondents interviewed Dai Qin, he said that he was not aware that the court did not use the Mongolian language in the lawsuit in which he was a defendant because he was absent from the trial due to handling another case. But he said by common sense the court should have used the Mongolian language. Regarding Yu Bao-shan’s allegations against him, Dai Qin said he tried his best and he met his responsibility to provide legal services to his client. Dai Qin’s position is that it is the court’s duty to accept or deny his legal opinions and advice to his client. In Dai Qin’s opinion, there’s no basis for a charge of nonfeasance. In terms of the 19,000 Yuan entertainment expense, he said it was used for appraising documents and asking others to assist in the case on behalf of his client, it was not for him only.

Yu Bao-shan refuses to concede defeat and considers the whole process as a mistrial of law. The Xin Hua correspondents have encountered many similar cases in other areas. The Chinese “Civil Procedure Act” clearly states that any relevant party to a court proceeding has the right to request the court to use his or her own native language to litigate and the court shall respect the equal rights of a relevant party to use his or her own native language to participate in the proceedings. Sympathizers of Yu Bao-shan are claiming to file appeals in support of protection of litigants’ equal rights to use their native language. 



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