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China: State Council Regulations on Natural Disaster Salvage and Assistance

(Aug. 25, 2010) China's State Council (Cabinet) promulgated the Regulations on Natural Disaster Salvage and Assistance on July 8, 2010, to enter into force on September 1, 2010. The seven chapters of the Regulations comprise general provisions, salvage and assistance preparations, contingency salvage and assistance, post-disaster salvage and assistance, salvage and assistance funds management, legal liability, and supplementary provisions.

The Regulations stipulate that natural disaster salvage and assistance work is to be administered under a leadership responsibility system at every level of government, and they set forth a clear division of labor at each level. At the national level, the State Disaster Reduction Commission (SDRC) is responsible for organizing and leading the salvage and assistance work, by coordinating the launching of major activities; the various departments of the Ministry of Civil Affairs are responsible for the salvage and assistance work and shoulder the SDRC's basic tasks; and the State Council ministerial departments concerned are to do a good job of related work in accordance with their respective official duties. Local governments above the county level or the government general coordinating bodies for natural disaster salvage and assistance and emergencies are to organize and coordinate the work in their own administrative districts, with related efforts to be handled by other relevant local government departments. Villagers' committees, residents' committees, the Red Cross, charities, public foundations, and other social organizations will provide assistance to the government's efforts according to law (arts. 3 & 5).

Local government above the county level must incorporate natural disaster salvage and assistance work in their economic and social development plans, establish a robust mechanism of funds and material reserves [goods and materials safeguards] to meet the needs of such work, and incorporate government-set natural disaster salvage and assistance funds and work-related expenditures into the financial budget (art. 4).

The local governments must formulate contingency plans in accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and norms and the higher-level government emergency plans. The plans are to cover such matters as the emergency response organization and command system and related duties; emergency response forces; emergency funds, goods and material, and equipment, natural disaster warning and forecast reporting and disaster situation information reporting; post-disaster residential housing restoration and reconstruction measures, and so on (art. 8). The State for its part is to set up a materials reserve system for natural disaster salvage and assistance. In particular,

People's governments at and above the level of a city with districts and people's government of a county in which natural disaster frequently or easily occur shall, in accordance with the characteristics of the natural disasters, the size and spread of the population and other circumstances, establish materials reserve storage for natural disaster salvage and assistance in accordance with the principles of reasonable layout and appropriate scale [art. 10]. (State Council Promulgates Regulations on Natural Disaster Salvage and Assistance: China Wants to Take Good Care of Its People, 28 ISINOLAW WEEKLY (Aug. 9-15, 2010), email from [email protected], received Aug. 20, 2010.)

Other provisions cover early warning response measures and response measures to be launched once a disaster has occurred, plus the provision of timely information on places of refuge and emergency routes by such means as radio, television, cell phones, electronic display devices, and the Internet. There are also requirements for timely reporting, by the local county-level government to the next higher level of government and, once the crisis has stabilized, to the society at large, of personnel injuries and deaths, major property losses, and the status of salvage and assistance work.

Post-disaster salvage and assistance provisions address such matters as transitional arrangements for placement of victims locally or elsewhere, the formulation of restoration and rebuilding plans and favorable policies once the danger from the disaster has been eliminated, and the provision of basic living assistance to victims in straits for a period following the disaster. The local government's civil affairs and financial affairs departments and relevant social organizations must make public the sources, amounts, and disbursement of the disaster assistance funds and donations they have received; a similar provision applies to villagers' and residents' committees. Governments at all levels must establish a supervision and inspection system for disaster relief funds and donations, and also timely handle complaints and reports of wrongdoing.

Administrative personnel may receive disciplinary punishment (or be investigated for criminal liability if the act constitutes a crime) for such acts as delayed or false reporting of losses caused by the natural disaster, which have repercussions; failure to organize the transfer and settlement of victims in a timely manner, adequately render them basic living assistance, or organize the restoration and rebuilding process; or withholding, misappropriation, or private division of the salvage and assistance funds or materials. Other provisions on legal liability cover offenses of defrauding and looting of funds and materials and obstructing, by means of violence or threats, natural disaster salvage and assistance workers from carrying out their duties. (Id.; Regulations on Natural Disaster Salvage and Assistance [in English] (July 8, 2010), iSinoLaw Reference ID: 76613;77243;77369 -10100799,
; State Council Decree: “Natural Disaster Salvage and Relief Regulations” to Be Implemented from September [in Chinese], XINHUANET (July 14, 2010),