Global Times: Shanghai police’s creative mechanism in solving civil disputes shows wisdom of China’s urban grassroots governance

PRNewswire January 8, 2024

BEIJING, Jan. 8, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — At a commercial building on the busy Nanjing Road West in downtown Shanghai, two groups of people almost come to blows over a lease negotiation dispute. The situation threatens to escalate as angry lessees and lessors consider seeking redress at the courts if the conflict isn’t resolved promptly.

But the dispute is quickly resolved, thanks to the first-time intervention of local law enforcement agencies. After a thorough analysis and in-depth discussions on matters including the contract implementation and lease structure adjustment, the two sides, in the presence of police, market supervisors, and lawyers, gradually calm down, and bring negotiations eventually back on track.

During the process, authorities “made use of multi-party resources that complement each other’s advantages, and paid much attention to the settlement of multiple disputes,” said a Shanghai-based lawyer Xu Hongmei, who participated in this mediation in June 2023. “That provides a guarantee for enterprises to conduct business without distractions,” Xu told the Global Times.

The Nanjing Road West case is a vivid example of the “three-party linkage mechanism” by the Shanghai police. The establishment of the mechanism, which means police stations, judicial offices, and law firms work together in resolving grassroots disputes, was promulgated by the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau in 2023.

An article published by the People’s Daily on January 4, in which reporters visited police stations, judicial offices, and law firms in Shanghai to see how the creative mechanism resolved conflicts and disputes among the people, expounded on the lessons that grassroots governance could be drawn from the mechanism.

Chinese experts on government affairs management said the “three-party linkage mechanism,” which embodies the integration of law, principle, and human sentiment, is another innovative attempt in improving Chinese grassroots governance ability, which can effectively promote social harmony and stability.

Resolve disputes in the bud

In daily life, some seemingly small matters, such as neighborhood, property, and parking disputes, are actually major events in the minds of the public. Sometimes, dealing with these matters may create a knot in the hearts of the involved parties, and the cost of legal action can be high.

The “three-party linkage mechanism” in Shanghai is a creative attempt to solve this problem. To date, the mechanism has been established in all 353 police stations across this city, according to the People’s Daily report.

The jurisdiction of the Nanjing Road West police station is one of the city’s key CBD (Central Business District) areas. The 1.62-square-kilometer area gathers 31 commercial buildings.

Multipurpose real estate is of huge economic benefit to the city, but it can easily be a source of various kinds of contradictions and disputes, among which commercial consumption disputes account for more than 50 percent, said Chen Wei, director of the police station.

“Such disputes may escalate quickly if they are ineffectively managed and controlled in the initial stages,” Chen told the Global Times.

Early in 2019, the Nanjing Road West police station set up an in-house legal public service station at a Shanghai landmark shopping mall, and invited local law firms to sign up to serve at the station.

Since then, with the guidance of the “three-party linkage mechanism” introduced later, all 30 legal service stations in this area have covered more than 400 enterprises and public institutions, providing offline consultations for 268 people, and helping resolve 144 disputes of various kinds, according to the Jing’an Branch of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau.

Deploying the mediation work in advance is one of the important concepts of the “three-party linkage mechanism” in Shanghai’s grassroots governance. Through early detection, early intervention, and early mediation, contradictions can be nipped in the bud.

In downtown Hongkou district, for instance, quarrels on matters including greenery and the height of the walls used to regularly happen among residential community neighbors. “Some people even came to me with iron chains, asking for an explanation,” local grassroots Party official Zhu Zhenyu told the People’s Daily.

The local police station then launched the “three-party linkage mechanism.” Under the joint efforts of the police, judicial mediators, and lawyers, residents of the two communities buried the hatchet. Moreover, residential developers tore down the old wall and replaced it with a new 2.5-meter-tall one, “and that satisfied all the residents involved.”

“As society develops, our work is also changing,” Chen Jinbiao, deputy director of the Public Order Department of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, told the People’s Daily. “If some conflicts and disputes are not resolved in time, they are likely to escalate into criminal cases. Therefore, we move from passive protection to front-end prevention.”

“This is also our exploration of adhering to and developing the ‘Fengqiao experience’ in the new era,” Chen noted.

The “three-party linkage mechanism” is an integrated social governance measure that can give full play to the strengths of the police station, law firm, and judicial office in the mediation of mass disputes, Xiong Yihan, vice-president of the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University, told the Global Times.

Xiong noted that in the past, police and lawyers often stepped in at the end of a civil dispute when relations were tense.

“At present, various organizations are emphasizing the need to identify and solve problems in the bud, which is a proactive problem-solving thought and strategy,” he said.

The public security department is playing to its strengths by offering a platform, mobilizing the resources of all parties, lawyers, and mediators to actively make mediation more effective, Xiong noted.

Joint effort of multiple parties

The implementation and promotion of the “three-party linkage mechanism” has not only resolved a large number of contradictions and disputes, but has also mobilized more resources to aid in its implementation, thus, constantly building a solid foundation for grassroots governance, said observers.

The resolution of the lease negotiation dispute, which took place at a commercial building on Nanjing Road West in June 2023, was an example showing the joint efforts of multiple parties in making the mechanism work. That day, before the two involved sides turned the verbal argument into a physical fight, local police rushed to pacify them, and judicial mediators and lawyers arrived within 30 minutes to help mediate the conflict. Then, the district’s commercial commission hosted an online coordination meeting for the two sides, with local market supervisors also in attendance.

At the city level, the Public Security Bureau in Shanghai has adopted a lively approach to resolving disputes. They work closely with the Party committee, and various government departments including education, civil affairs, health, market supervision, housing management, and judicial professional committees. This collaboration has led to the establishment of a more effective mediation system, resulting in a significant improvement in resolving vexing problems for the public.

In addition, for problems in key industries such as real estate and labor relations, the Shanghai public security organs rely on “reminder letters” and “comprehensive treatment proposals” to give relevant departments suggestions to deal with, promoting the transformation from solving isolated cases to dissecting a universal difficulty in one field.

Since 2023, Shanghai has issued a total of 136 suggestions and reminders in several areas, which have provided substantial support in improving the overall management of local communities, greatly contributing to enhanced grassroots governance.

Integration of law and human sentiment

Resolving conflicts and disputes among the public and helping the parties involved find closure and satisfaction is no easy task. However, the “three-party linkage mechanism” has proven to be an effective approach that considers the legal, rational, and emotional aspects of these situations comprehensively.

In June 2023, for instance, late at night, a tenant surnamed Wei contacted Gu Xiaofen, a community police officer at the Pujin Road police station of the Minhang Public Security Sub-bureau in Shanghai.

“I will fight them to the end!” Wei declared. Wei was frustrated with a three-party rent dispute involving the landlord and sub-landlord, and firmly believed that a power outage had intentionally been caused by the landlord as a form of punishment.

Gu and Wei engaged in a lengthy conversation that night, joined by a mediator from the judicial office. Together, they aimed to understand the challenges faced by the sub-landlord and find a way to resolve the impasse. Gu also sought legal advice from a lawyer to clarify the nature of the contract between the parties involved.

Thanks to the “three-party linkage mechanism,” this complex rental dispute, with conflicting interests and intense emotions, was successfully resolved in a short time.

“Sometimes, relying solely on the police is not enough to convince both parties. By involving lawyers and mediators, the people involved can not only experience the warmth of mediation, but also receive professional legal services, making it easier for them to rationally assess their interests and reach a consensus,” Jin Jie, the director of the Guidance Brigade of the Grassroots Basic Work Division of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, told the People’s Daily.

To encourage the public to seek legal assistance proactively, the Shanghai public security authorities have also implemented more intelligent and information-based methods, such as online mediation services. Since 2023, they have had over 50,000 online legal consultations and conducted over 11,800 scheduled mediations. These efforts aim to provide accessible and efficient support to those in need. 

The “three-party linkage mechanism” embodies the characteristics of Chinese-style urban grassroots governance and is conducive to promoting social harmony and stability, Xiong pointed out.

China is a society with a large population, and in the process of governance, the relevant departments are exploring a model that is different from the Western society’s pursuit of a single legal route, but a combination of self-governance at the grassroots level, virtue, and rule of law,” Xiong noted.

Just like the “three-party linkage mechanism,” it not only emphasizes procedural justice but also takes into account the simple justice views of ordinary Chinese people, ensuring both procedural justice and substantive justice, and striving to meet the diverse interests and demands of the public.

The integration of law, principle, and human sentiment, and the aggregation of multiple forces to address public concerns have made such modernization of governance in these mega-cities highly popular among the Chinese people, Xiong pointed.

Xiong also believes that in the future, the mechanism will be actively promoted and adaptively applied to different fields in other cities and rural areas.

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SOURCE Global Times

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