Zhang Zhongmin

Scholar of Environment Law Zhang Zhongmin:Find a New Path of Case Study

The good vision brought up in the report of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, such as “lucid waters and lush mountains being invaluable assets”, “Building a Beautiful China” and “advancing law-based governance in the whole nation”, put the environment law under the spotlight of the public.Before then, the website of Chinese Law Innovation listed 89 legal scholars in the nation to be considered as productive writers, including one of the three scholars of environment law in the listProfessor Zhang Zhongmin who devoted himself to the research and teaching of environment law and energy law in ZUEL.

The Young Scholar Who Participate in the Compilation of the “Green Paper” on Environmental Judicial Development Report of China

On July 13th, 2017, the press conference held by the Supreme People’s Court released “Trials of Environment and Resources of China (2016-2017)” (White Paper) and “Environmental Judicial Development Report of China (2015-2017)” (Green Paper). In the conference, Lv Zhongmei, Deputy Director of Committee for Social and Legal Affairs of the National Committee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and Director of the Academic Committee of the Judicial Research Center of Environment and Resources of the Supreme People’s Court, introduced that, the “Green Paper” teased out the trials of environmental lawsuits of China with the research and analysis of the written judgments of environmental lawsuits since the establishment of the court for environmental protection as the main content. Officially named as “Environmental Judicial Development Report of China” later, the “Green Paper” was released in July each year by the Supreme People’s Court on the same day as the “White Paper” bringing out the best in each other.

14 scholars, judges and graduate students from Tsinghua University, Wuhan University, Chongqing University, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Supreme People’s Court of Inner Mongolia and so on took part in the research and the compilation of the report. Zhang Zhongmin, as the representative of ZUEL, was one of them and acted as the Executive Director assisting Professor Lv Zhongmei with the layout, the writing, the compilation, the release and the publication of the “Green Paper”. That night, Zhang Zhongmin, who seldom posted in WeChat Moments, posted a picture and said that, “from this year, it will be a routine to get together in the Supreme People’s Court in July each year for environmental justice! Roll up the sleeves to work harder!”

Besides the “Green Paper”, Zhang Zhongmin also kept close cooperation with some departments such as environmental protection department. He participated in the whole courses of the drafts and demonstrations of the departmental regulations such as “Regulations on Work of Environment and Health (Trial)”, and he often gave lectures in the front-line departments including environmental enforcement and environmental justice. His suggestions, such as the division of the infringement acts including environmental pollution and ecological damage, were adopted by the “Interpretations of the Supreme People's Court on Several Issues Concerning Application of the Law on Trials of the Cases of Civil Public Interest Litigation” which came into force in 2015. Later, in the open letter of thanks, Zhang Zhongmin was the only young scholar thanked by Zheng Xuelin, the presiding judge of Adjudication Tribunal for Environment and Resources, following the masters like Zhang Weiping, Wang Yaxin and Lv Zhongmei.

To Develop his Own Empirical Academic Style with the Written Judgments

The honors came from the “Green Paper” attributed to Zhang Zhongmin’s rigorous academic attitude and research on the cases. Different from the traditional legal research, he stressed on case study, especially statistical analysis of the environmental written judgments, rather than normative analysis, which was closely related to his experiences.

After his graduation in 2004, he went to the former State Environmental Protection Administration to participate in the foundation of All-China Environment Federation. Later, he went back to ZUEL for doctorate. His mentor, Professor Lv Zhongmei taught him in accordance of his aptitude and suggested him to do more study of sociology. So, in his first year as a PhD student, Zhang Zhongmin stayed in Xiangyang for half a year to talk about the resolutions of environmental lawsuits and environmental disputes with officials of Bureau of Environmental Protection, judges, lawyers and people concerned every day. In the second year, he went to more than ten provinces of China to gather written judgments of environmental cases. At that time, the documents would not be put on the Internet so he had to find the judges and ask for the documents one by one. After his graduation in 2008, he stayed as a teacher. Under the guidance of the scholars like Professor Wu Handong, he participated in the regional legislation organized by the People’s Congress, Development and Reform Commission, Office of Legislative Affairs of Hubei Province and so on.

Zhang Zhongmin suffered from the lack of knowledge of articles of law and cases in his experiences in the departments, which stopped him from giving satisfied answers to the practical problems. He forced himself to become obsessed with articles of law and cases gradually. In 2009, guided by his mentor, Zhang Zhongmin wrote a research report “Status quo of the judicial remedy of environmental tort in China” with thousands of environmental written judgments as the samples, which was highly recognized in the circle. The empirical research method and the form and essence of binary analysis framework of written judgments proposed by him was recognized and followed by more and more scholars of environment law.

Zhang Zhongmin, who likedchallenging himself, went to Law School of Columbia University in America as visiting scholar once he finished his one-year practice in Intermediate People’s Court of Hanjiang in 2010. After a year of working as a researcher in Institute of Public Interest Law in Columbia University, he went to Vermont Law School, which was ranking the first for environment law in America, for master degree of environment law even he had already got a doctorate.

His achievements came from his sound foundation of accumulation. In recent years, he had published more than 30 theses on press including “China Legal Science”, “People’s Daily·Theory”, “China Population·Resources and Environment” and so on, and the full texts of many of them were reprinted by “Chinese Social Science Digest” and “Copy Materials of Renmin University of China”. He had published two monographs “From Univariate to Multivariate: Empirical Research of Ecological Lawsuit” and “Energy Contract”. He also directed more than 10 projects of National Social Science Fund, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance and Social Science Fund of Hubei Province.

Recently, taking advantage of the integration of economics, law and management, he has been conducting the big data research of environmental written judgments by learning and adopting the advanced method of data processing to try to find out the real legal needs and tendency of law from the large amounts of data.

“Zhang Sandian”, a Teacher and Friend

People who are familiar with Zhang Zhongmin know he has a habit of expressing his opinion logically with “one, two, three”. So, he was given a nickname “Zhang Sandian” by his friends.

He is always nice, responsible and serious to the students. Huang Qian, who was recommended to Peking University for master degree, expressed her gratitude for Mr. Zhang. She said, “other students were really envy because my roommate and I had Mr. Zhang as our mentor for our graduate theses.” Huang Qian’s roommate came to like environment law because of Zhang Zhongmin and she was recommended to study environment law in Wuhan University as graduate student.

Wan Quan, who was also recommended to Peking University for master degree, was the team leader of the project “Study on the reasons and system of resolution for ‘no case to try’ of environment law--taking Guiyang, Wuxi and Kunming as examples”, which won the first prize of “Challenge Cup” National Undergraduate Curricular Contest of Hubei Province and the second prize of the nation in 2015 under the guidance of Zhang Zhongmin through the whole process. 6 of the 8 students in the team were recommended to Peking University, Renmin University of China and Sun Yat-sen University for master degrees.

In the eyes of the students’, this teacher who was beneficial for them in study and life, was more like a friend and communicated with them equally. His graduate students would study seriously and play freely with him. Actually, Zhang Zhongmin’s attitude towards the students is the same as his mentor Professor Lv Zhongmei. In her preface for Zhang Zhongmin’s monograph “Energy Contract”, Professor Lv, who seldom praised the students, spoke highly of her favorite student. She said, “It is a teacher’s duty to be sincere with the student and grow up with him together. Although the student has become a teacher himself and maybe he has already exceeded the teacher.”

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