A Peaceful Approach
Civil mediation contributes to dispute resolution with minimum harm to social relations
By Sun Xuan  ·  2020-01-14  ·   Source: NO.3 JANUARY 16, 2020
Yang Jiuzhou, a people's mediator in Hengliang sub-district of Luhe District, Nanjing City in Jangsu Province, December 3, 2019 (ZHANG WEI)

Yang Jiuzhou, a people's mediator in Luhe District of Nanjing, Jiangsu Province in east China, has a natural flair for mediation. When he lived in a village, he used to settle disputes among the villagers and his efficiency earned him their trust.

In 2009, when a local dispute-settling center was instituted, Yang was chosen as one of its mediators. Three years later, because of his conflict-resolution skills, a new center set up in Hengliang sub-district in Luhe was named after him. He has since worked in the center, settling disputes between local residents.

Yang's daily work is to promote mutual understanding between the parties involved in a dispute after counseling and educating them. The disagreements have to be resolved based on the principles of fairness and equality. He also needs to make sure all steps are in accordance with laws and regulations.

"Mediation is sacred work," he said.

The life of a mediator is not easy. The 59-year-old usually gets up at 5 a.m., then he takes a walk in the village. He has found it a good time to talk to people to know more about them, which helps his work. Then it's time to start mediating, which continues until lunch time. Sometimes, he is required to visit the people or places involved. In the afternoon, he analyzes the cases and reviews previous ones. If necessary, he asks for feedback from the people involved.

At night, he studies laws and state policies to improve his knowledge. Watching mediation programs on TV is one of his favorite pastimes, as they provide skills and experience for his work. However, when there are emergencies, he has to forego his recreation and rest and focus on the complex issue at hand.

Chinese culture values peace and harmony. The advantages of mediation are that it is flexible, convenient and low-cost. Today, mediation serves as a necessary supplement to judicial work.

The modern mediation system in China was established in the early 1950s, after the founding of the People's Republic of China, and gradually developed into a nongovernmental legal practice with Chinese characteristics. The process of people's mediation is simpler than litigation and alleviates the problem of insufficient litigation resources in China, a country with 1.4 billion people. To guide the people's mediation system to operate in accordance with the law, the People's Mediation Law came into force on January 1, 2011.

According to the Ministry of Justice, as of 2018, there were 3.67 million people's mediators in China. Nearly 14 percent of them were professional mediators. On average, they dealt with 9 million disputes per year, 96 percent of which were successfully settled.

Since the center bearing his name opened, Yang handles 220 reconciliation cases annually on average with a 100-percent success rate.

Yang talked about a case in his decade-long career in mediation. It involved a 90-year-old, identified only by his family name Zhang. Zhang had four sons and a daughter but his youngest son was his favorite. He went out of his way to help the son, including giving him his pension. However, the son refused to take care of him. The other children were angry at their father's partiality and so they did not want to support him either. The family conflict escalated and in the end, Yang was asked to help.

Before beginning mediation, Yang invited the residents in Zhang's village to work on the issue together. He then criticized the youngest son and educated him on providing support in accordance with the law. He also encouraged the father and his children to air their grievances to dispel misunderstandings and increase cohesion in the family. Finally, they came up with the best solution: the father would live with the youngest son while the other children would provide support in terms of money and care.

"In our village, people are keener to seek help from mediators, rather than lawyers," Yang said.

"Mediation emphasizes mutual understanding based on facts, the laws and morals," Yang said. In the traditional way of thinking, confrontations in courts can hurt feelings, especially when the people involved are relatives, friends or neighbors, whereas conciliation can settle conflicts in a peaceful manner.

Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar

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