Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Low-Budget, High-Yield Legal Aid in Xi’an

After I enrolled in law school, I began to notice what amazing services that legal aid offices in American cities offer to the indigents. They operate on a small budget, yet manage to give their all to their clients’ causes. As the good folks at the Dallas Bar Association put it, Pro Bono work is like “billable hours for your soul.”

It turns out that lawyers in my home turf of Shaanxi Province are doing the same, providing much needed legal representations to migrant workers who would otherwise not be able to afford lawyers. As I wrote in one of my previous posts, affordable and easy access to the justice system in a country is essential to the establishment of the rule of law. And what China Digital Times reported does shine a gleam of hope for many, including the disenfranchised Chinese workers and those of us who care about China’s legal system.

In its post titled Why Migrant Workers Praise the Law, CDT states:

The Shanghai Daily News reports that migrant workers have some hope to resolve their woes with free legal assistance in the northwestern city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province.

Running with a budget of less than 7,000 yuan (US$972) per month, the Xi’an legal-aid station is hailed as a “beacon” for migrant workers by local media which have tracked the station since its formation last year. It is a joint effort by the United Nations Development Program and the All China Lawyers’ Association.

Migrant workers who number up to 200 million in China usually complain that employers pay them late or not at all, and of work-related injuries.

The station recently helped 41 construction workers fight to collect about 90,000 yuan, their half-year earnings for last year. “The work is tougher as they were employed indirectly through sub-contractors or, even worse, via oral promises,” said Zhao.

Now, the Xi’an lawyers have at least two things to be proud of—the historical legacy of Shaanxi and their care for the “soul.”

1 comment:

Thomas Chow said...

The article actually discusses the astounding stats:

Statistics show that from 2005 to the first six months of 2007, legal-aid groups nationwide have helped 263,489 migrant workers, according to the Legal Daily.